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Posted October 1, 2010
Revenge and other forms of Madness
DEATH SENTENCE is a tough movie to watch, not because it is a poorly made film, but because of the degree of violence that, once started, is mayhem on a roller coaster ride. Though based on a novel by Brian Garfield, the script by Ian Jeffers is a patchwork quilt - the holes show whenever the police arrive on the scene. James Wan, of the 'Saw' movies fame, directs with a keen eye for breathless action sequences and almost intolerable suspense timing that makes the film fly through the 111 minutes of the Unrated version. During the opening credits we are introduced to the perfect family via home movies and domestic scenes: Nick Hume (Kevin Bacon) is the devoted father, Helen (Kelly Preston) his bright and loving wife, Brendan (Stuart Lafferty) is the golden boy son with all the soccer laurels, and Lucas (Jordan Garrett) the younger 'also ran' son. The glitch in this family's happiness happens one night when, out of gas while driving home from a soccer game, Nick stops at a gas station and while Brendan is in the convenience store a gang comes in and murders the store owner and Brendan: the reason for the killing is not robbery but an initiation rite into a gang accomplished by young Joe Darley (Matt O'Leary) and the demand of his older brother Billy (Garrett Hedlund, in a very out of character role from his usual 'Troy', 'Friday Night Lights', 'Eragon', 'Georgia Rule' persona). Nick witnesses the killing and when the lawyers and police work with him in the aftermath to 'arrange a deal' instead of a murder trial, Nick decides to take matters in hi s own hands. The Darley brothers are part of a ruthless gang sponsored by their own father Bones Darley (John Goodman, in a very dark and well-realized role). Nick stalks Joe Darley and murders him, and once the deed (that happens to begin a gang war against Nick) is done the terror begins. The gang is out to kill not only Nick but Nick's family also. How this pursued and pursuers game works out furnishes the remainder of the film. It is the old eye for an eye story that ends in tragedy for everyone concerned. When the film is dealing with the 'family' and the 'gang' the dialog sparkles, but when the police, headed by Detective Wallis (Aisha Tyler), become involved the aid from the police becomes as ludicrous as the dialog placed in their mouths. Kevin Bacon gives a bravura performance as the gentle father driven to murderous madness and Garrett Hedlund matches him as the ruthless and terrifying gang leader Billy. There are enough sidebars about father/son relationships on both sides of the plot line to make the movie have a message. But in the end it is the wildly frantic camera action and directorial decisions by Wan that make this a horrifying and arresting film. Not for the queasy viewer. Grady HarpWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.