Although stylish, this Sentence could have used revision

Death Sentence

on August 31, 2007 by Annlee Ellingson
In a bit of a departure from the torture porn that launched his career, James Wan ( Saw , Dead Silence ) helms this revenge thriller starring Kevin Bacon as Nick Hume, a middle-management executive with a beautiful wife (Kelly Preston, in an underwritten role) and two teenage sons at home. A pencil-pusher who finds satisfaction in balancing the two sides of equations, he's especially delighted to discover a study that proves that an upright life leads to a longer one.

Nick's idyll is shattered, however, when his eldest Brendan (Stuart Lafferty) is murdered in a gang initiation rite. Realizing that the prosecutor is eager to make a plea bargain with the perpetrator, he withdraws his eyewitness testimony and takes the law into his own hands. What he doesn't consider is that even a thug has family, and vengeance only begets more.

Unfortunately, this Shakespearean premise—Nick gets a cut on his hand that won't stop bleeding—is undermined by a lack of nuance. The bad guys here are so bad—all tatted up and skin-headed to be as scary as possible—that when they utter with all sincerity that their fallen brother “didn't deserve this”—well, he killed the kid in cold blood, so, yeah, he kinda did. Equally ridiculous is when the investigating cop accuses Nick of escalating the violence. “You make war on the wrong dog?” she says. Not to revert to the schoolyard playground, but they started it.

Not entirely convinced by the material, either, is Bacon, whose reactions to the plot developments alternate among mechanized, preprogrammed emotion, wide-eyed astonishment at his sudden combat capabilities and childish petulance. But then how else is he to respond to the at-times laughable gaps in logic?

Bringing some energy to the proceedings, however, are Wan's direction and John R. Leonetti's gritty cinematography. There's some of Saw 's gore here—a graffiti allusion, too—but the action centers on foot chases, hand-to-hand combat and gunslinging. Wan is perhaps too in love with some of his flashier shots, bringing even more attention to them with sound effects, but overall the combination of handheld camerawork and long, uninterrupted takes during these sequences is enjoyably stylish.
Distributor: Fox
Cast: Kevin Bacon, Garrett Hedlund, Kelly Preston, Aisha Tyler and John Goodman
Director: James Wan
Screenwriter: Ian Mackenzie Jeffers
Producers: Ashok Amritraj, Howard Baldwin and Karen Baldwin
Genre: Dramatic thriller
Rating: R for strong bloody brutal violence and pervasive language
Running time: 105 min.
Release date: August 31, 2007
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