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41 of 46 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Revenge and other forms of Madness
DEATH SENTENCE is a tough movie to watch, not because it is a poorly made film, but because of the degree of violence that, once started, is mayhem on a roller coaster ride. Though based on a novel by Brian Garfield, the script by Ian Jeffers is a patchwork quilt - the holes show whenever the police arrive on the scene. James Wan, of the 'Saw' movies fame, directs with a...
Published on January 12, 2008 by Grady Harp

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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars a study in justice/revenge
This is about an upper class executive family and family of gang members. It shows the interaction of the upper class family and their two sons and the gang leader father and his two sons.

When the upper class son is murdered in front of his father's eyes, the younger upper class son has issues of never measuring up.

The justice department wants to...
Published on September 1, 2007 by P. Crookshanks


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41 of 46 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Revenge and other forms of Madness, January 12, 2008
By 
This review is from: Death Sentence (Unrated Edition) (DVD)
DEATH SENTENCE is a tough movie to watch, not because it is a poorly made film, but because of the degree of violence that, once started, is mayhem on a roller coaster ride. Though based on a novel by Brian Garfield, the script by Ian Jeffers is a patchwork quilt - the holes show whenever the police arrive on the scene. James Wan, of the 'Saw' movies fame, directs with a keen eye for breathless action sequences and almost intolerable suspense timing that makes the film fly through the 111 minutes of the Unrated version.

During the opening credits we are introduced to the perfect family via home movies and domestic scenes: Nick Hume (Kevin Bacon) is the devoted father, Helen (Kelly Preston) his bright and loving wife, Brendan (Stuart Lafferty) is the golden boy son with all the hockey laurels, and Lucas (Jordan Garrett) the younger 'also ran' son. The glitch in this family's happiness happens one night when, out of gas while driving home from a hockey game, Nick stops at a gas station and while Brendan is in the convenience store a gang comes in and murders the store owner and Brendan: the reason for the killing is not robbery but an initiation rite into a gang accomplished by young Joe Darley (Matt O'Leary) and the demand of his older brother Billy (Garrett Hedlund, in a very out of character role from his usual 'Troy', 'Friday Night Lights', 'Eragon', 'Georgia Rule' persona). Nick witnesses the killing and when the lawyers and police work with him in the aftermath to 'arrange a deal' instead of a murder trial, Nick decides to take matters in hi s own hands.

The Darley brothers are part of a ruthless gang sponsored by their own father Bones Darley (John Goodman, in a very dark and well-realized role). Nick stalks Joe Darley and murders him, and once the deed (that happens to begin a gang war against Nick) is done the terror begins. The gang is out to kill not only Nick but Nick's family also. How this pursued and pursuers game works out furnishes the remainder of the film. It is the old eye for an eye story that ends in tragedy for everyone concerned.

When the film is dealing with the 'family' and the 'gang' the dialog sparkles, but when the police, headed by Detective Wallis (Aisha Tyler), become involved the aid from the police becomes as ludicrous as the dialog placed in their mouths. Kevin Bacon gives a bravura performance as the gentle father driven to murderous madness and Garrett Hedlund matches him as the ruthless and terrifying gang leader Billy. There are enough sidebars about father/son relationships on both sides of the plot line to make the movie have a message. But in the end it is the wildly frantic camera action and directorial decisions by Wan that make this a horrifying and arresting film. Not for the queasy viewer. Grady Harp, January 08
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29 of 34 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I don't agree with the critics on this one, December 21, 2007
This review is from: Death Sentence (Unrated Edition) (DVD)
I usually agree with the mainstream critics about movies, for the most part. However, this movie, like the 1st Saw film, is a major exception. If you are looking for a best picture candidate, you will not find it here. However, it is a very entertaining, engrossing movie that will probably not appeal to the squeamish. The movie fits right into the Parent Revenge mold quite well. The oldest son is killed by gang. Dad avenges death. Gang fights back. Dad goes crazy and kills gang members, before the whole thing culminates in a final shootout full of graphic carnage. If you are looking for an insane action movie, this isn't quite it. In particular, the first half is very deliberate in trying to convey Bacon as a real guy, trying to avoid violence, but ultimately succumbing to it. I found this journey that he takes to be quite believe, up until a scene near the end in a hospital in which he turns into Rambo. Rather than being moving, it is slightly laughable. Then the movie turns into a straightforward, albeit very well shot, action flick full of gore and carnage. Many critics bashed the film for it's hypocrisy in having the movie condemn violence while later depicting it in stylish, perversely entertaining detail. However, I think this was justified by a gang leaders quote at near the end of the film. "Look at you," he says to Bacon. "You've turned into one of us." The man is right. The gang leaders have slit throats and shot heads. But so has Bacon. He is a lesser of two evils to be sure, but an evil none the less. While this may be a cheap attempt by the director the make the film more serious, it does work. It is true that Bacon has transformed into a kind of monster. I give great credit to Bacon's performance, along with almost ever other actor. If a dark, violent, disturbing movie is what you are in the mood for this weekend, skip Halloween, and go see this.
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23 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Death Sentence is death wish for a new age, November 17, 2007
This review is from: Death Sentence (Unrated Edition) (DVD)
Revenge is best served....period
This movie is a wicked ride. For all you Death Wish, Straw Dogs, and The Crow fans out there, this film is dark and gritty. Fast paced action and some good raw emotion. I won't ruin the story but if revenge is your kind of dish i recomend you pick this up, grab a snack and sit back and watch Kevin Bacon kick so much @$$ you'll probably go blind.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Classic cliches and mixed messages, but great for a dark mood., December 22, 2007
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B. Beach (Telluride, CO United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Death Sentence (Unrated Edition) (DVD)
After watching this you may feel a little distant and on edge. It isn't a simple 'revenge' theme. The message may be that the cost of 'justice' can be higher than the cost of the injustice, and in the end you can't make it all come out equal. But the message seems secondary to what I liked about this film.

Cliche's become fresh again if they are done well. The scenes of violence taken independently are well composed. The acting is all well done, but you must also really give credit to good music scores and the cinematography for making it work.

A brief list of movie points (without giving anything away):

Casting is very well done, especially with Goodman and the bad guys. Bacon is a great choice as he can play the family man, victim, and psycho all very well.
The beginning tries to establish the characters to build empathy for their later duress. This is standard, necessary, but a little sappy - so don't get too critical.
The buildup for the first violent scene is excellent as you scream at Bacon to open his eyes to where he is and what is going down (classic horror).
The 'bad guys' hang out is introduced to the sound of Jimi Hendrix, and they are very well casted as dudes you do not want to ### with.
John Goodman is simply outstanding in his role and acting.
The first revenge scene is very believable in how it happens.
The 'bad guys' are shown as having emotions and intellect, not just as dehumanized thugs, + the balls to whack you at your favorite Starbucks at noon (there's no Starbucks in the movie, just making a point).
The 'Rambo' part of the film fullfills it's brutal purpose with a neat change in filming.
The end scene gives a tribute to Robert De Niro's early work in Taxi Driver.

You will probably be left with a dark alienated mood not a clear simple message. So watch it for the mood, not a message.
"2 thumbs up"
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars TRAVIS BICKLE HAS A SON AND HE'S OUT FOR REVENGE AND TAKIN' OUT THE GARBAGE!, February 5, 2008
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This review is from: Death Sentence (Unrated Edition) (DVD)
This film is another 'Death Wish/Taxi Driver' clone but, it does have some style and some good performances. There is an audience for these types of films because it's fun to watch dirt-bags get what they deserve! Bacon is believable as a father stricken with grief after his son is randomly murdered as part of a gang initiation. This is not just a "shoot`em up" movie but a good story with decent character development. There are some plot holes for sure but, overall this is a good movie with much more going for it than not. John Goodman also give a very disturbing and good performance.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thrills & Spills Galore, January 26, 2008
By 
M. B. Richardson (Stockton - on - Tees, Cleveland United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Death Sentence (Unrated Edition) (DVD)
It's rare that Kevin Bacon disappoints - and on this occasion he did not disappoint - great acting , casting , storyline (one or two holes), action . Not for the squeamish !!

There is a moral tucked in here too as well as the in built desire for revenge we all have - i think we will all be able to relate to this movie in one way or another - RECOMMENDED !!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gritty, violent, beautiful..., March 27, 2008
This review is from: Death Sentence (Unrated Edition) (DVD)
Death Sentence is a film brought to us by the genius who brought us the first Saw film. But don't be fooled, this is a crime drama not a horror flick. And probably one of the best crime dramas I've seen in a long time. The story follows a man (Kevin Bacon) who's son is murdered in a gang initiation and the guilty parties are let go. So he seeks revenge. Bloody, vicious revenge. The cast is rounded out by John Goodman and everybody does a spectacular job with their roles. You know how every film has at least one actor that sucks? This one didn't. It was solid all the way through. The cinematography on this film was just as amazing as Saw but actually seemed darker because of the story line. This was a great film and I can't wait to see what he will bring us next.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars a study in justice/revenge, September 1, 2007
By 
This is about an upper class executive family and family of gang members. It shows the interaction of the upper class family and their two sons and the gang leader father and his two sons.

When the upper class son is murdered in front of his father's eyes, the younger upper class son has issues of never measuring up.

The justice department wants to make a deal that will never bring the murderer to trial. Law enforcement is unable to control the activities of the gang and is useless to this family.

This was an initiation killing into the gang. The upper class father refuses to identify the murderer in court and thus a war of families to the last member begins for which law enforcement blames the upper class father.

What was just business as usual for the gang, becomes personal and was on a personal level with the upper class dad from its conception.

Has a lot of action scenes and brutality. If you like making your own ending. You will like this movie. You won't leave uplifted. John Goodman is the gangland father and Kevin Bacon the executive father.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Kevin Bacon was brilliant in an other wise average flick, September 10, 2008
By 
Dave. K (Staten Island, NY,) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Death Sentence (Unrated Edition) (DVD)
I'm a huge fan of vigilante movies those are my guilty pleasures; even some of the weaker ones of the genre I cannot help, but enjoy. I like the ones where the vigilante is your average person I always find those to work the best and they also have a good what if? If you lost a loved one to a senseless and violent act could you bring yourself to kill the people responsible?

Death Sentence is one of the most frustrating movies I have ever seen; the problem is the concept is great and it has all the makings of a great movie, but somewhere along the way something is just missing. What makes it so frustrating is there are some really brilliant moments, but too many average moments that just don't seem to work.

The interesting aspect of the movie is a little more time is spent with the villains. But the problem is they aren't very interesting. They are the typical villains only difference is we spend more time with them than most movies like this and we see their side of wanting to avenge the loss of their own. Despite spending more time with them they are the typical villains with no depth to the characters. Again they are just like every villain in this type of movie only more screen time. Having more screen time doesn't mean anything if you fail to do anything with them. It's funny the Hollywood way of villains is shave their head and throw some tattoos on their neck and face and we are meant to fear them, but it doesn't work.

Death Sentence is bound to be compared to Death Wish, but every vigilante movie will be compared to it. Death Wish can probably be seen as the holy grail of revenge movies. Every revenge movie since the release of Death Wish in 1974 has been inspired by it. Even if that movie is based on a book, comic or even a remake that came before Death Wish, most revenge flicks follow the format of Death Wish. But let's face it Death Wish is probably the greatest vigilante movie ever made.

This time around there is actually a good reason for this being like Death Wish. Death Sentence is based off a novel written by Brian Garfield who wrote the novel for Death Wish, the novel Death Sentence was based off is actually the follow up to Death Wish. The Death Wish franchise though went in a very different direction, but this movie is based off a novel that was the sequel to the original Death Wish novel so they are bound to have a few things in common.

Ian Jeffers wrote the screenplay and overall it was very uneven. While by no means was it poorly written, but there were problems. For starters the decision Nick Hume played brilliantly by Kevin Bacon to get revenge on the person who killed his son just came to easy. While there was a brief moment of doubt he just comes to that decision way too easy. I think it should have been more of a build up. Ok granted by doing that it might be a little too much like Death Wish, but Nick comes to his decision a little too easy.

Again we come back to the villains they really don't work. There really was no point is showing their side. They murdered an innocent kid in cold blood. It was a senseless act of violence therefore there is no sympathy for them. But more importantly they just aren't interesting. In my opinion they failed to get any emotion out of me. But the one good thing about that story is it shows how violence escalates. Nick's sense of loss drives him to get revenge and the sense of loss the gang feels drives them to avenge their loss. It's very much a double edge sword; what makes this movie stand-out also sort of hurts it.

The characters just aren't well developed outside of Kevin Bacon's character; the rest are just very bland and honestly aren't very likeable and it's kind of hard to feel sympathy for any of the victims when there is no emotional attachment to any of them. Overall I wouldn't say the script by Ian Jeffers was bad or anything, but it very much lacks with weak characters and certain aspects not fully developed.

Director James Wan who made a name for himself with Saw has flashes of great filmmaking, but too many moments where his scenes just lack the emotion, urgency and the tension. But when Wan gets it right does he ever deliver. There were some slight problems with the script, but any problem could have been fixed with the right directing, but again Wan is very uneven. As I stated prior to Nick getting his revenge on the man that killed his son there is some doubt, but the scene just falls a bit flat and lacked the emotion. Though afterwards Nick does feel some guilt and Wan handles that very well. The attack on Nick's family was a turning point and should have been a very powerful scene, but there is just something missing there. From an emotional side the scene just falls a little flat and that pretty much sums up most of the movie.

But there is a lot of good to Death Sentence it has a great gritty look and the violence is really brutal and not done in an entertaining way. While we the audience can root for Nick he is still taking lives even if it's for the right reason he's still murdering people and the violence is shown as the ugly act that it is. All these scenes I have to give James Wan a lot of credit on he really nails it. But like I said some scenes just lack emotion and it just felt as if more really could have been done. There were these great and powerful and deep moments that were set up and very little pay off. I do think James Wan is a director with a lot of potential. Like I said a lot of his scenes lack in some areas, but when he gets it right he delivers. There is potential though for Wan to be an excellent filmmaker, but with Death Sentence he made a very uneven movie.

The influences here are quite obvious from Death Wish to Taxi Driver and William Lustig's Vigilante. The problem also with Wan's directing is he relies too much on these films rather than injecting his own style. While a lot will compare this to Death Wish, Death Sentence actually reminds me a lot more of Vigilante.

The saving grace of Death Sentence is Kevin Bacon. He delivers what might just be the finest performance of his career. I've always liked Kevin Bacon, but here his performance was mind blowing. He brings so much to the role and while I had respect for him as an actor prior to this I have now gained even more respect for the guy. He had such power on camera and he really draws you in, while his director might have dropped the ball in a few scenes, Bacon though is top notch and really gives a great performance. I would say Kevin Bacon's performance is one of my favorites of 2007; the only performance I enjoyed more from the year was Viggo Mortensen in Eastern Promises.

The final act to Death Sentence is excellent. It's suspenseful, gritty, violent and unrelenting. While it does owe a lot to Taxi Driver, these are the scenes where James Wan really shows a lot of potential. Even if what came before was slightly uneven the final act very much delivers and gets the job done. Again no doubt it owes a lot to Taxi Driver, but the final act is still very well done and that again is what makes this so frustrating since there really was a lot of potential here.

Overall Death Sentence is a very mixed bag, while there are many solid moments there are too many that lack the emotion needed. The saving grace was Kevin Bacon and is the main reason to check this one out.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best revenge movies to date, March 8, 2008
This review is from: Death Sentence (Unrated Edition) (DVD)
I wanted to see this movie when it was in theaters, but never really got a chance. I saw reviews (which were horrible), so it put me off from it. Seeing the unrated version at a cheap price ($17 for a new movie!), I figured I'd give it a chance.

And I'm sure glad that I did. Kevin Bacon gives a stellar performance as someone pushed over the edge. A normal guy that snaps over the murder of his son and seeks revenge on the gang that did it, killing every single one in the process.

This movie is vigilante justice at its best! Bacon puts on a great show and communicates well to the audience. You feel his pain and want the bad guys to pay, just like he does.

The action is great and gruesome. Coming from one of the Saw guys, you can expect it to be good. It didn't have over the top usage of the word 'f*ck,' which was nice, especially when movies throw it around so much today. Truly a great flick that will keep you on the edge of your seat. You know he is going to kill the whole gang the entire time you are watching the movie, but it does a great job of keeping you guessing as how he is going to accomplish and go about it.

My only gripe is how long it takes for Kevin Bacon to exact his revenge. While the acting is good the whole way through, except for the lady detective (which could've been a lot better), I wish there was more action spread throughout. Sure there is some in the beginning, middle, and end, but certainly not constant. This separates this from other action movies as it only happens in segments rather than constantly. That being said, this is actually more of a drama than an action movie and shouldn't really be viewed as one.

In the end, I was left wanting more carnage, especially after not seeing Bacon kill the gang leader. So much buildup, yet almost no release, but I can't even see that as making it any better.

Verdict: Accept it for what it is and buy it!
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Death Sentence (Unrated Edition)
Death Sentence (Unrated Edition) by Kevin Bacon (DVD - 2008)
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