Theatrical Review: Death Sentence
Nicholas Hume is a man who has everything, a loving wife, two wonderful sons, a secure job- everything is going his way, or as he puts it, there is order in the universe. His eldest son is a hockey prodigy, and one night, coming home from a big game, Nick and his son find themselves the victims of gang violence, resulting in the death of that son, and now tearing apart Nick’s life sending him into a downhill plunge of violence of which there seems no escape.
And that’s the basic premise of the new movie from the original director of Saw, James Wan, Death Sentence based on a book by author Brian Garfield which in itself was a written response to sequels of a movie based on another of his books, Death Wish. As far as I’m concerned though, this feels like it’s a new version of Death Wish for our times now, and ultimately, with just a minor caveat, I think Wan has delivered a pretty satisfying film, one that has some definite weight to it and not necessarily just an excuse for wanton violence on-screen.
Wan’s clearly grown since Saw it’s real evident here, as at least to me anyway, his storytelling is way more matter of fact and far less relying on some of the tricks that he used in Saw. One of the set pieces of the film, a brilliant foot chase that leads to a final conclusion in a parking garage, is just really well done, often times giving the illusion of a single extended shot, it’s just real exciting to watch. But he just doesn’t rest there, as he’s really on his game with his actors as well.
My one minor complaint with the film concerns a transformation of one of the characters that happens a little too fast, though I think some of that can be explained a bit, I just would’ve liked it more had it taken a little more time in the film.
Kevin Bacon plays Nick Hume, and Bacon is really good here. He’s obviously invested himself emotionally in the role, and he’s asked to do some tough physical stuff as well. We’re pretty much with Bacon through the whole film, and we want him to come out on top- which is certainly a good sign of his abilities. Kelly Preston plays his wife and while I can’t remember the names of the actors who plays his sons, they do a nice job, and they are convincing as a family unit. Aisha Tyler plays a police detective who’s involved with the case and she’s solid here. John Goodman creepily plays a gun runner who’s the backbone of this gang and it’s really fun to watch him work here. And again, I can’t remember the names of the actors who play the gang members (although Saw star and co-writer Leigh Whannell is one of them), but they do a great job, not just playing some two-dimensional cut-outs, but actually having their own weight as well, when they see that their own “family unit” is threatened.
There’s a lot of other movies that Death Sentence owes to (particularly Taxi Driver) and really I don’t have a problem with that, and I tend to think that this probably couldn’t have been made any other way, without thinking of those movies, revenge films tend to do that. But still, James Wan has put together a pretty effective piece of filmmaking here that I know I certainly enjoyed quite a bit. Very much recommended.