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  Publicity Stills of "Death Sentence"
(Courtesy from Cathay-Keris Films)

Genre: Drama
Director: James Wan
Cast: Kevin Bacon, Garrett Hedlund, Kelly Preston, John Goodman, Aisha Tyler, Leigh Whannell, Matt O'Leary, Yorgo Constantine, Jordan Garrett
Runtime: 1 hr 50 mins
Released By: Cathay-Keris Films
Rating: M18 (Coarse Language and Violence)
Official Website: http://www.deathsentencemovie.com

Opening Day: 24 January 2008


Nick Hume (Kevin Bacon) is a mild-mannered executive with a perfect life, until one gruesome night he witnesses/experiences 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.

Movie Review:

James Wan burst into Tinseltown prominence as the co-creator of the Saw franchise, which brought about a revival of the torture porn horror sub-genre. While his last movie was again a horror one with Dead Silence, Death Sentence provided a sort of avenue for him to try out something different, applying< techniques he honed in horror and incorporating them into yet another genre film, that of revenge and retribution.

Nick Hume (the evergreen Kevin Bacon) is a typical family man who's successful at work as he is at home. With a beautiful wife and two fine boys, and as senior vice president for a Fortune 500 company, danger probably never crossed his contended mind, until of course a night of senseless crime which provided the first chink of damage to his state of well being.

Like many revenge and retribution movies out there, with the likes of Kill Bill, Payback, the recent Brave One or even Alex Proyas' The Crow, a moment of insanity proved to be the catalyst to drive one nuts and take the law into their own hands. In movies like these, the cops are often ineffective or non-existent, while the courts uphold the law, and not justice. The bad guys have "worthy of death, without remorse" tagged onto their characters, that you soon find yourself baying for blood for the heinous crime they committed. At times, watching this movie is like watching a tennis game, as the ball gets bounced from one side of the court to the next, and you anticipate the next volley being the match point.

But if this movie, like the others, turn one man into a superman fueled by rage, then it might be a tad boring, what with the meticulous plans and flawless execution. Here's where the story shines a little (based on a novel by Brian Garfield as a sequel to his Death Wish, and brought up to date by scriptwriter Ian Mackenzie Jeffers), which added a sense of reality and maybe even humanity into the character of Nick Hume, no doubt fleshed out perfectly by Kevin Bacon. His character wants to wage a one man revenge crusade, but more often than not, finds himself always being one step behind, and not ruthless or cunning enough. Here is a man who's more scared than running gungho around town. Simply put, a man without a plan, at least not quite, until the final straw.

And when he takes the law into his own hands, are the audience in for a visual treat. I'm not talking about the violence or the blood or gore here, but the technical wizardry that James Wan and team employed to spice up proceedings. The camera moves in unison with the happenings on screen, and often when it's not scenes of tranquility, they are scenes shot at a frantic pace. Look out for an incredible yet amazing piece of one motion camerawork tracking a chase scene involving Humes as the camera weaves seamlessly in and out of a multi-storey carpark, or when you follow Humes home in fear, all done in a sweeping single take.

Most of the characters are one-dimensional, which served no challenge for the ensemble cast. However, Bacon again never disappointed with his transformation, as he combines fear and exasperation into Humes, allowing us to slip in very easily into his character's shoes, aiding in our identifying with his dad who is looking for an eye for an eye. And those wounds makeup deserve mention as well, for all the believable bruises and cuts. Look out too for John Goodman as the arms dealer, especially when he's hawking his wares.

While revenge movies have a tried and tested (tired?) formula, somehow there's still a lot of spirit and fight left in Death Sentence. While some scenes do successfully shock and awe to a certain degree, we know what we want is a no holds barred delivery of justice in the character's own hands. And after all, it's Kevin Bacon, who makes Death Sentence well worth a watch.

Movie Rating:

(Death Sentence is a guilt trip on violence and revenge best served with plenty of lead)

Review by Stefan Shih


. The Brave One (2007)

. Saw 4 (2007)

. Death Proof (2007)

. Running Scared (2006)

. Sin City (2005)

. The Woodsman (2004)

. Walking Tall: Lone Justice DVD (2007)


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