Death Sentence

“Death Sentence” is the first in a wave of revenge thrillers scheduled to hit theatres this fall (“The Brave One” and “Reservation Road” are up next), and it is also probably the worst. The James Wan-directed movie boasts an abundance of unrealistic action and far-fetched emotional dialogues, which smash all hopes for credibility early on in the beginning and leave the audience with barely anything to be thrilled about.

Based on the novel by Brian Garfield, “Sentence” stars Kevin Bacon as Nick Hume, a successful risk assessor at an insurance company who adores spending his free time with his wife Helen (Kelly Preston) and his sons Brendan (Stuart Lafferty) and Lucas (Jordan Garrett). Everything seems to be going great for the Humes, at least until Brendan is brutally murdered by a gang of drug dealers during a gas station robbery.

Angered by the incident and profoundly disappointed by the failure of the criminal justice system, Nick decides to pursue justice himself and exact a terrible vengeance on the thugs who took his son’s life. Unfortunately, it’s not until he terminates the first one on his list that Nick realizes he may have just started a war he can’t win. With the rest of the hood now on his trails, Nick has no choice but to protect his family and keep fighting until there’s only one left standing.

In a nutshell, “Death Sentence” is the epitome of monotonous action flicks in which ridiculous stunts and pursuits dominate a fairly shallow plot. Complexity is non-existent, and frankly, I can’t think of a single scene in the movie that would make you believe what you seen on the screen. Within minutes, Kevin Bacon turns from a gentle businessman into a hardcore punisher who’s an expert at handling weapons and shows no fear in hunting down an entire gang of dangerous criminals.

From there, it seems that he gets away with pretty much anything he engages in. Whether it’s escaping from police custody and calmly walking back home to prep for another attack, or jumping out of the front window of a car just seconds before it falls of the top of a parking garage, Nick is a hero, and he’s invincible. Not even three bullets can take him down.

While the numerous hot pursuits and repetitive shootouts generally prevent us from completely surrendering to boredom, they are, however, not credible enough to keep us fully engaged. On a more positive note, “Death Sentence” comprises some first-class effects, which along with Wan’s at times efficient direction, helps keeping the global atmosphere of the movie intense.

More than once does screenwriter Ian Jeffers try to go emotional on us with saccharine dialogue surrounding the Humes’ mourning over their son’s death. But all these moments get crushed by the large amount of silly action and extreme violence, thus further reducing the movie’s level of credibility.

Kevin Bacon’s performance in the role of Nick Hume never requires too much effort, especially since the script never fully develops his character. All he does really is put on a fierce look, run for his life, hide and shoot. The same goes for the rest of the cast, with the exception of John Goodman, who does an excellent job playing a lunatic arms dealer. It’s great to see him in such a good shape.

By and large, “Death Sentence” falls victim to a weak script. The film offers nothing we haven’t already seen, and if there’s a message hidden in all this mess, it’s that you should not start a war unless you are sure you can win it. James Wan did a fairly respectable job on the first “Saw,” but completely messed up with “Dead Silence.” Quality wise, “Death Sentence” can be slammed between those two, even though it misses its target and features a concept that is early on massacred by unimpressive action and a considerable lack of logic.

Review by Franck Tabouring