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Death Sentence (Unrated Edition)
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Nick Hume is a loving father with a perfect life, until one gruesome night he witnesses something that changes him forever. Transformed by grief, Hume eventually comes to the disturbing conclusion that no length is too great when protecting his family.
James Wan (Saw) brings the ultra-violence to this gritty story of a suburban father (Kevin Bacon) who discovers the consequences of revenge after his son is murdered. The perpetrators of this senseless killing are a multi-ethnic (and highly visible) gang of drug dealers and cutthroats led by the psychotic Billy Darley (Garrett Hedlund); when the case is thrown out on a technicality, Bacon takes a page from Charles Bronson's book (no surprise, as this is based on author Brian Garfield's 1975 follow-up to Death Wish) and pursues a vigilante course to avenge his boy. Things do not go according to Bacon's plan, which cues a series of frantic and well-executed action set pieces, most notably a parking structure chase that unfolds in a nearly unbroken take. Death Sentence breaks no new ground in the action-thriller department, and its characters and dialogue are nearly indistinguishable from any violent crime movie of the last few decades (in its weakest moments, it resembles grindhouse fare like The Exterminator); however, Bacon is excellent (as always) as the mild-mannered architect who discovers his inner killer the hard way, and Wan's knack for screen mayhem and unsettling atmosphere are well used here. The DVD includes both the theatrical version and an unrated cut (which offers 10 additional minutes), as well as two making-of featurettes that originally aired on the Fox Movie Channel, and several webisodes that focus on director Wan, his cast, and the film's elaborate stunts and fight scenes. -- Paul Gaita
Beyond Death Sentence
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Stills from Death Sentence
- Aspect Ratio : 2.40:1
- Is Discontinued By Manufacturer : No
- MPAA rating : s_medNotRated Unrated (Not Rated)
- Product Dimensions : 7.5 x 5.5 x 0.53 inches; 3.52 Ounces
- Media Format : AC-3, Color, Dolby, Dubbed, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
- Run time : 1 hour and 45 minutes
- Release date : January 8, 2008
- Actors : Kevin Bacon, Garrett Hedlund, John Goodman, Kelly Preston, Matt O'Leary
- Dubbed: : Spanish
- Subtitles: : English, Spanish, French
- Language : English (Dolby Surround), Unqualified, Spanish (Dolby Surround)
- Studio : 20th Century Fox
- ASIN : B000Y7U97I
- Number of discs : 1
- Best Sellers Rank: #31,339 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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I think at this point, society is going... are macho guys really something to look up to? Is revenge and being vindicated something to which to aspire? I feel like DC superheroes are years ahead of the curve on this one. You can use the injustices you've seen to drive you to fight against the inequalities in the world you live, or you can just go nuts, kill people, and then end up in that cycle that serves no one and nothing.
And here's the thing, too. I like John Wick. The character depth in those admittedly hyper-violent movies that I maybe shouldn't like as much as I do, is so much more than what you get here. Whereas with John Wick, we know that his previous profession was that of an assassin, one of the topmost, who not only loses his wife, but then has salt rubbed in the wound at the death of his dog. The guys he fights against are beyond villanous, and his past makes everything plausible in relative terms. But in Death Sentence, we see the main character doing things that a desk jockey, father of three just shouldn't be able to do. This pasty upper middle class American dude just shouldn't be outrunning, out-fighting, and out-gunning gangsters, who should assuredly have far more street fighting ability, more physical strength, and less reluctance to be violent. So unlike John Wick, whose revenge and all the things in that series that come after are believable for that character, you don't have that here. John Wick is an interesting, if violent story, about a nuanced character, whose background is deeply relevant to the action. Death Sentence is just a middle class, toxic masculinity, white male power fantasy in the revenge flavor. And not even a good one, at that. It is in no way on par with a movie like say, Falling Down. And again, this comes down to character nuance. William Foster, the protagonist of Falling Down, is pushed and pushed and PUSHED to the ends of his reasonable emotional limits, and we see this displayed in a way that we really FEEL it. Death Sentence doesn't manage to pull that off, even with the heavy-handed death of the main character's son. Additionally, in both John Wick and Falling Down, we're never given the sense that we should glorify the protagonist; we just see the series of events that unfold. They're characters who have both good and bad traits, and do both good and bad things. Certainly we're given a lens where their good outweighs their bad just enough to want to keep rooting for them, but Death Sentence's Nice Hume isn't written this way. He definitely gets huge doses of protagonist immunity and it's clear that they attempt to glorify him.
I'm only giving it 2-stars instead of 1, because it does have some redeeming qualities. The pacing is good, the acting is good or fine (depending on which character/ actor), and I didn't get so bored as to stop watching it. The visual shots and dialogue aren't bad, either, even if nothing especially shines. I was just hoping it would develop more, and show up with something less cliche. It didn't. Oh well.
Top reviews from other countries
As the review title suggests, Death Sentence is an equal balance of both a ridiculously unconventional and obscure plot bolstered by nonetheless gritty, hard boiled vigilantism. Which is why, consequently, it receives three stars from me; its shamefully paper-thin in substance is only just, but not sufficiently, counteracted by its violence. Here's why.
The premise is one which is an unimaginative as it comes: a family man and CEO of an insurance firm, Nick Hume (played by Kevin Bacon), with a seemingly perfect life, (don't they all in these Hollywood flicks?) witnesses his son brutally attacked by a vicious mob. Unsatisfied with the law's punishment, Nick decides to take matters into his own hands. Let's just stop here for a moment. Because therein lies the biggest, most substantially pathetic error that drives Death Sentence into an absolute car crash. And it begins with a certain 'car sequence,' of all things. I didn't know what I was expecting with this film, considering it divided the critics and the everyday viewers, with negative and positive review respectively. However, after around 1 hour and 10 minutes in, I began to have a clear indication where this film was heading.
Nick Hume is not a killer. It's not in his blood to murder. Even when pushed to the brink, his take on revenge is flawed, panicky and rushed. And this does give a sense of realism about it, which I admit is done well, mostly to Bacon's credit. You generally feel for his character. Even after revenge against the individual, he doesn't feel any better. He's grief-stricken, cold and somewhat scared. Retreated into a shell. At one point I wanted to just step into the scenes, buy him a drink and tell him it's all gonna be alright. That's what this film does best, which I will congratulate it for. But my God, what follows is incredibly predictable.
It doesn't take a genius to know that when you go after a certain member of a violent mob of drug dealers (couldn't this be anymore cliched?) the pack of wolves are going to come hunting for you and when push comes to shove, Nick transforms into a bald-headed, goth/emo/punk, Punisher-esque, multiple-armament wielding psychopathic nut job. Yes, you heard. An hour ago he was the shirt-and-tie wearing, petrified, depressed and withdrawn chief executive and now he's this...well...just read the previous sentence. It's at this point where James Wan sacrifices all sense of plausibility for the sake of 'shotgun diplomacy' (as to quote a certain Three-Dog from the game Fallout 3.) It's out of place, and it's done purely for the sake of James Wan to deliver his signature excessive violence just because he can. This is the man who gave us Saw, remember. But where in Saw it was dark and brooding throughout, and it's pace was consistent, delivering the final punchy twist so confidently it worked, the first half of Death Sentence is just 'biding time' for the last part of blood-soaked rebellion. Wan could have just extracted those last twenty to thirty minutes as a standalone short and it wouldn't have appeared any different, in fact it would have been better, because in the context of this film. It. Just. Doesn't. Work.
The script is neither here nor there. It's not great, but at the same time it's not terrible. It's meh. It's what you'd expect from these films, you can predict what they will say and how they will react. And if you can predict character dialogue, you can predict follow-on scenes, and subsequently, the film as a whole.
Acting is pretty much the same. Hopelessly derivative and standard. I will give credit here though, as I did previously, for Bacon's acting. He makes you feel for the father Nick Hume, caught in this maelstrom of distraught emotions, confused as to what to do and how far to go. When he breaks down in tears, you can't help but be sympathetic. When he takes revenge for the first time, you worry for him and his safety. I know I make a big deal of it but I will because its the only singular aspect to this film which is done well. His family members 'play' their roles well, though I'm pretty sure they just play themselves. A middle-aged, loving mother and her typically childish and ignorant son. How hard can those be to act? With respect to the gangsters, I have a theory that basically if you generally possess a look that implies you just robbed your local off-license and sport a mean straight face all the time, even you can assume the role of the main antagonist. Just shout a few F-words here and there, shoot a gun full of blanks and voila. Not hard is it?
If you're looking for a default option for a Saturday night-in with your misses when all other movie options seem exhausted, Death Sentence will, modestly, deliver. But do not expect anything more from this film. On that note however, I will not lie. I will watch this movie again, now that I know what I'm in for. Considering I just spent the last paragraphs tearing the movie apart, Bacon's acting and the shootouts are still pretty well done. I mean, I'm a young 20-something man. Who doesn't like a bit of blood-soaked retribution and gunfire mayhem at my age? Gratituous violence including limbs being blown off? Yes please.
Parent's Guide: Strong bloody violence, gore, strong language