Death Sentence (2007)
By: J.R. McNamara on October 9, 2009  | 
Roadshow (Australia). Region 4, PAL. 2.40:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 5.1, English DD 2.0. English (FHI) Subtitles. 100 minutes
The Movie
Cover Art
Director: James Wan
Starring: Kevin Bacon, Garrett Hedlund, Kelly Preston, Jordan Garrett, Aisha Tyler
Screenplay: Ian Jeffers
Country: USA
External Links
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This film is a strange bag. It is yet another adaptation of a book by Death Wish's Brian Garfield that doesn't seem to want to be an adaptation.

The novel Death Sentence is the sequel to Death Wish, and is actually another tale featuring vigilante Paul Benjamin, the literary character who became Paul Kersey in the 1974 film of the same name, but here, Death Sentence is more a remake of Death Wish. Thematically, the two novels and these two films discuss the effects of revenge and vigilantism and use the assault of a civilised man's family as its core plotline, but the similarities basically stops there.

In this, the film version of Death Sentence, we are introduced to the Hume family: Nick (Kevin Bacon), Helen (Kelly Preston) and their sons Lucas (Jordan Garrett) and Brendan (Stuart Lafferty). They are a loving family, as we are shown in the clichéd old home video footage montage, but that close knittedness is about to come to a disastrous halt.

On their way home from a hockey game, Nick and Brendan are assaulted by a gang who use murder as an initiation device, which results in Brendan losing his life.

This, expectedly, affects Nick profoundly and when he finds out the perpetrator of the crime, Joe Darley (Matthew O'Leary) will probably get off as there is insufficient evidence to put him away for life. Nick decides to relinquish his statement about the attack and removes Joe from the land of the living himself.

Unfortunately the gang Joe was trying to get into is run by his older brother Billy (Garrett Hedlund) who doesn't take to his brother's death too lightly. He commits an act of revenge on Nick which sees him, his wife and surviving son shot. Of course Nick survives this assault, and decides it is time to finish this game once and for all.

This film looks great, and it is quite clear to those that have seen Saw or Dead Silence that James Wan's hand is all over it. The performances that he has gotten from all the cast are good ones, even from John Goodman, whose character is an amalgam of all the bad fathers and dodgy criminals ever seen in film. The real problem with this film is it has identity issues.

At times it feels corny, and some of the musical cues are so desperately trying to tug heartstrings that even the most casual of film fans could see how anxious it is to get some kind of emotional reaction from the viewer. This is, believe it or not, an A movie attempting to be a B movie, and failing at both, not being scummy enough for the B crowd, and not A enough for the multiplex set.

Upon repeated viewing there are some terrible dialogues spots that may be perceived as 'foreboding' but in actual fact come across as lame. One such case is Nick Hume, early in the film asks his arguing sons 'Could we all please be civilized for once before I kill somebody.'... Oh the bitter bitter irony. Clumsy irony, but irony nevertheless.

Director James Wan also does a few 'Tarantinos' in this with his self-awareness. We have the Saw puppet spray-painted in the bad part of town, not far from Stygian Street (a reference to Wan's rarely seen debut feature), and Judge Shaw, played by Judith Roberts, also played Mary Shaw in Wan's Dead Silence. We can't also forget Wan's usual suspect Leigh Whannell getting a look in here as Spink, one of the gang members.
This film is presented in a faultless 2.40:1 aspect ratio with 16:9 enhancement.
The audio of this disc is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 which means you clearly hear some of the poorly chosen songs for the soundtrack perfectly. The sound of car engine roaring and guns barking their leaden death sound pretty good too!
Extra Features
Just trailers on this disc I am afraid: The Brave One, Eastern Promises, Death Proof and of course, Death Sentence.
The Verdict
Even though this is well acted and nicely directed, it doesn't strike the right notes as its Hollywood-ness gets in the way of its revenge sleaziness... I mean, even the scumbag gang are a bunch of good looking actors with beards and drawn on tattoos to make them seem 'tough'. A B movie ideal doesn't become improved with a better quality of actors in it.
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score

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