Death Sentence is arresting film from the start. Instead of a family album, a montage of home movies depicting a happy family growing up together is the opening scene. The joy of young sons playing together; learning to ride a bike; playing sports with proud parents applauding; a mom blowing out birthday candles surrounded by grown-up sons; and the dad shooting the movies. All touching moments captured on film for future viewing like most families do. Then, rather abruptly we watch as the dad, Nick Hume, played with superb emotion by Kevin Bacon (of The Woodsman, Mystic River, and Tremors fame) witnessing his oldest son being brutally killed in some twisted gang initiation. Most would feel that that bad guy would go straight to prison, but the unpredictable twist in Death Sentence is that Nick Hume decides to issue his own personal death sentence on his son’s killer. He mums up in court and fails to identify the killer who is set free for Nick Hume to hunt down—which he does, which enrages the skin head gang leader who happens to be the older brother, Billy Darley, played by Garrett Hedlund (of Eragon, Friday Night Lights and Four Brothers fame).
What is engrossing about this action, revenge movie is that Nick Hume is an insurance executive turned avenging angel. It’s captivating because this is not 007 or Rambo with all the karate moves, fighting skills and ability to take on multiple threats and at the same time. This is John Doe dodging bullets and fighting back, and getting his ass injured. Captivating action scenes are throughout the backend of the movie. Interestingly, John Goodman (of Rosanne fame) has two memorable scenes as the gang leader’s father Bones Darley, who is the local gun runner and fence for the criminal element in the movie. What is memorable is that Goodman’s character confronts the Nick Hume character, after selling him a ton of guns, on the subject of killing his youngest son and his intention to kill his eldest son. You would have to see the movie to embrace the wisdom of this bizarre, one-sided conversation. More importantly Death Sentence rewards movie goers among us who occasionally want to take the law into our own hands. This movie gets a lot of mileage out of serious payback scenes. The bad guys messed with the wrong insurance agent. We get to view a systematic process of how it can be done should reality jump up and bites one of us someday.
Worth noting is how the police are treated as an afterthought in this movie as they have a minimal role which is probably director’s, James Wan’s (of Saw fame) reality check regarding police who typically arrive so late in response to criminal activity that they are of little use. Wan displays them in force at the very end of the movie just as the dust is settling. Kudos to Director Wan for action scenes that bring to mind Sam Peckinpah (of Straw Dogs and Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia fame). The mayhem is bloody and dismemberment abounds. As Nick Hume gets more accurate, Kevin Bacon seems destined for more action movies down the road. Vigilantism is alive and well in Death Sentence thanks to the precedent set in a very similar movie called Death Wish. It is my hope that bad guys enjoy such cinema and take note that what goes around comes around. Loved this movie, and movies like it, and so will you. See you at the movies.