DVD/Blu-ray Reviews

Death Sentence - DVD Review


Death Sentence


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</script></div>{/googleAds}Filmmaker James Wan pays tribute to the gritty classic revenge pictures of the '70s and early '80s with Death Sentence, a scatter-brained mess of a film that's more garbage than homage. Based on the same-named Brian Garfield novel (that was s sequel to Death Wish), the film is an exploration of what happens to the typical suburban Joe when his life is interrupted by a senseless act of violence and the justice system offers no help. But where those films of the '70s and '80s knew exactly what they were and never tried to be anything more than cheaply produced but exciting outlets for second-rate action material, Death Sentence negates its own exploitative fun by taking itself way too seriously. What should be a fun revenge flick in the vein of the recent Grindhouse double-feature by Tarantino and Rodriguez, is instead an over-acted drama with Shakespearean tragedy on the brain.

Kevin Bacon is Nick Hume, an upper-middle class businessman we get to meet through an opening montage of home videos that shows just how Cleaver-like the Hume family is. Mom (Kelly Preston) stays home and prepares dinner for her two teenaged boys, Lucas (Jordan Garrett) and Brendan (Stuart Lafferty), the latter of which is preparing for college and a hopeful hockey career. All is content in the Hume household... until golden boy Brendan is needlessly killed in a gang initiation murder. Displeased that his son's murderer (Garret Hedlund) might get away with only 3-5 years in the pen, Nick drops the charges, hones his stabbing skills and faces off against the tattooed kid outside his apartment.

When the thugs finally discover who killed their homey, Nick becomes involved in an inner-city gang vs. suburb-man tit-for-tat turf battle. How a family man, whose weapons-handling skills up to this point amounted to nothing more than carving the Thanksgiving turkey, manages to hold his own in the face of such danger is anybody's guess. We're asked to believe in Nick's transition from family man to bad guy, but we just don't buy it. Bacon is a great actor, but here he's just unable to make us believe. As if he senses the script's shortcomings, he resorts to over-acting to compensate. Even a shaved head - a la Taxi Driver's Travis Bickle - does little to lead us along.

Most of the other performances are also all but wasted by a giddily thoughtless script more interested in killing than connecting with an audience. Preston disappears as the caring wife and doting mother so distraught over her son's loss that she fails to question her husband's numerous stupid decisions. To insinuate to an audience that a wife wouldn't recognize when her husband was up to such bloody shenanigans is not only careless, but down right insulting. On the other hand, John Goodman steals nearly every scene he's in as a goggle-eyed gunrunner who's as humorous as he is menacing. As the father of the head gang member, he's meant as juxtaposition to Bacon's father-figure role, but the script (by Ian Jeffers) is never able to make anything meaningful out of the statement. Instead, the only character we really care about appears for all of about 10 minutes... a huge missed opportunity.

Even as a gritty, sleazy, popcorn-munching throwback to the exploitation films it emulates, Death Sentence falls short. It gets way too many things wrong and asks us to overlook so many preposterous implausibilities we can't even accept it as a fun guilty pleasure because even guilty pleasures recognize what they are and play along for fun. Death Sentence strives very hard to be more, but it just doesn't take enough time to be a tough, thought-provoking statement about urban violence. And even its MTV music video stylings do little to mask the fact that the script's really got nothing. It might do something for the brain-disengaged adrenaline junkie, but hard to recommend for anyone else.


DVD

DVD Details:

Screen formats: Widescreen Anamorphic 1.85:1

Subtitles: English; Spanish; French

Language and Sound: Closed Captioned; English: Dolby Digital 5.1; Spanish: Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo

Other Features: Color; interactive menus; scene access; webisodes.

* Webisodes - 10 webisodes (18:09)
* Featurettes
o Fox Movie Channel Presents Making a Scene (9:59)
o Fox Movie Channel Presents Life After Film School with Kevin Bacon (26:23)
o Trailers - for Sunshine, Live Free of Die Hard, Joshua, and Cover.

Number of discs: - 1 - Keepcase Packaging

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