We’ve all said it before, more so after we’ve established a family of our own. God forbid, if something were to happen to someone we love, we’d kill the bastards responsible. We’d hunt them down like a prey animal and first do unimaginable things to them for the pain they’ve caused us. Then when their lifeless bodies hung limply from the wall shackles, we’d kill them again, just for good measure. Director, James Wan delves into this premise with an updated version of Death Wish, aptly titled Death Sentence.
Here, Kevin Bacon takes on the similar role Charles Bronson rode to fame in the 70’s. He plays Nick Hume, a risk assessment vice president at a prestigious insurance company. At his lavish house in the suburbs, his lovely wife Helen (Kelly Preston) and his two sons, Lucas (Jordan Garrett) and Brendan (Stuart Lafferty) live. Life is a bit dull, yet for all intents and purposes it is the epitome of the American dream. That is until everything is flipped upside when Brendan is mindlessly killed for something as stupid as a gang initiation dare. Distraught over the untimely and senseless death of his child, and for the 2-year plea deal given to the defendant, Nick figures justice is better served from his personal kitchen of pain and retribution.
The story and action of Death Sentence is more or less a rehash of every other revenge-fueled vigilante movie ever made. It starts off slowly, just as all these films do, showing just how mild-mannered and mundane our hero and his family are. Each of these movies all have a turning point – a single moment in which our leads’ lives have changed forever (usually via a murder or violent rape). In 90% of all these movies, the justice system and police are as worthless as tits on a bull. In Death Sentence, Aisha Tyler, is the lucky one who gets stuck being the detective who is dumber than dirt and serves society absolutely no purpose. And of course, how can we forget the revenge killings? You’ve got to have a bunch of ways to cause harm to the perpetrators. Stab them, choke them to death or shoot them repeatedly, take your pick and repeat.
What separates Death Sentence from the others in the genre is the great performance put forth by Kevin Bacon. In real life he gives off the persona that he is a down-to-earth, reserved guy, so his initial portrayal of a meekish, semi-introverted insurance adjuster was dead-on. As the movie progresses, his character slips deeper and deeper into the oblivion and Kevin handles it all in stride. He captures the feelings of loss and the subsequent hatred for himself and those who caused his family harm believably. So much so, that when he confronts the leader of the gang and is told, “You look like one of us . . . look what I made you”, I was actually thinking the same thing. It is a very convincing execution of a role that could have easily been done in a substandard fashion (it usually is).
For what it’s worth, Death Sentence isn’t that bad of a movie. As I said, it suffers from all the same clichés and pitfalls of similar flicks, but it is offset by the work of Kevin Bacon. Also helping it along, is the fact that Kelly Preston is no slouch of an actress either and that she still looks great for a 40+ year old woman (maybe there is something to Scientology after all). While I don’t necessarily think you should run out to the theaters to see this, I do believe it deserves a rental when it shows up in your Netflix queue.