Movie Review: Death Sentence

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Death Sentence was directed by James Wan, more known for starting the horror series Saw as well as the horror film Dead Silence. The movie stars Kevin Bacon in the lead with performances put in as well by John Goodman, Garrett Hedlund, Aisha Tyler, and Kelly Preston. The story is revenge tale about a mild-mannered man who turns to murder as a form of justice against the guy who killed his son. However, he soon finds he is in over his head as the entire gang responsible for everything declares war on him.

When I describe them as having declared war on him, I cannot help but smirk and hope it sounded silly to you as well. Death Sentence failed at theatres and I wondered why because quite frankly it had a cool movie trailer. After watching it my first mean thing to say is: the screenplay author, Ian Jeffers, is a hack. The movie is based off of a novel by Brian Garfield, which does help explain some of the premise since he also wrote on the Death Wish series starring Charles Bronson. What director James Wan and screenwriter Ian Jeffers have helped to bring to the screen in Death Sentence is something that feels like it was written by a troubled high school student; freshman.

The action is loud, brutal, dark, and intense; no complaints there. However, you are never able to slip into a sense of entertaining cool with the violence due to the heavy preaching and subject matter. Kevin Bacon transforms into a bad ass, but you cannot give a shout of “Yeah!” ever, because it all becomes a childish exploration of “what is justice?”, etc. The “gang” in the movie is one of the most corny entities to have hit film in a while, and the dialog and scenarios at times makes The Transformers movie look like Shakespeare. I tied so hard to like Death Sentence, tried to just say “Hey, it is a dark revenge flick in homage to past grind house style movies in a way.”, yet the logical errors and thoughts of “that would never happen like that”, just pile up too high and thick. A movie sucks when I cannot get past the critical barriers and enjoy it, and spend the viewing period thinking up clever ways to describe the trash.

Kevin Bacon, John Goodman, and most of the cast are decent in their roles. The wife character, played by Kelly Preston, is a pathetic performance. I’ve seen most of the work of James Wan and quite frankly this fits right in with the rest; I am not a fan of Saw. Wan also seems to have a thing for sappy, emotional music while making character stand in the rain. The entire time I am guessing he is thinking: “It sure is cool to have Kevin Bacon standing in the rain in his hospital gown.” ,whereas on the screen it is overkill thanks to the previous rain scenes and music video breaks and just looks silly. Some of the same things that made Dead Silence a bad film are present in Death Sentence. I am no longer surprised that this film bombed at the box office. The music I was talking about is pretty good, but does not fit in certain scenes, etc.

I could spend a lot more time pointing out each aspect of the story that made it crappy, but I’m finished.

The story is a mess: a hack writer, a hack director: I cannot think of anything nice to say other than the stunt work was very good.

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