What can you expect from Death Sentence? Well, considering this one made under ten million domestically and received little to no advertisement, you can’t expect too much more than what’s trailered: a generic story about someone getting revenge. However, like a lot of revenge films that involves sharp objects and guns, Death Sentence is just a really good time, regardless if the story doesn’t make too much of an impression on you. See, what Death Sentence has going for is it has Saw director James Wan behind it—for better or worse, the man can certainly direct some bloody (in more ways than one) good action and that’s just what Death Sentence delivers to us in its rousing finale.
Nick Hume (Kevin Bacon) is a loving father of two and leading the perfect life. With a high profile job that keeps him and his family in a comfortable living situation, Nick has nothing to worry about from nine to five and when he gets home he spends his free time with his family. Everything remains the same until one day when Nick and his oldest son, Brandon (Stuart Lafferty), are returning from a hockey game that Brandon had just won. Stopping in a rundown gas station in the middle of nowhere to fuel up, it’s here that the world that the Hume’s live in would change forever. A group of gang members pull up to the gas station shoots the employee and then slices Brandon across the neck, causing him to lose far too much blood before they can make it back to the hospital. Nick’s world begins spiraling out of control as he begins to exact his revenge on the gang member that killed his son—something that triggers an all out war with the rest of the gang.
Admittedly, Death Sentence is nothing new. A little bit of Ransom thrown in with Payback with the violence stepped up a notch to match James Wan’s bloodbath Saw series, Death Sentence is merely an amalgam of the films that came before it. It doesn’t rewrite the action genre in any way and instead plays upon the strengths that films before it had perfected. You’ll likely yawn at the car sequences after witnessing the latest Bourne film and the only thing that will truly grab your attention is the end gunfight, which manages to blow off more appendages than any other movie I’ve seen in the last year.
Even in its shortcomings, however, Death Sentence is really just a joy to watch. It really brings you into the world of the Hume’s with the home videos in the beginning, to the point where they expose you enough that you begin feeling emotional attachment within minutes of the film starting. I was rather surprised I was so drawn to the characters so quickly—maybe I was just in an overly emotional mood for some reason, but it really was quite hard to see Brandon die and the accompanying family breakdown in the hospital.
I will say that the trailers released for the film definitely paint it as a more action packed venture than it was, notably with Kevin Bacon’s role as the gun toting bad ass. It wasn’t until the end of the film that we see him unleash himself to the fullest extent, which was disappointing, but the film did a great buildup to it. It was also fun to see John Goodman as a foul mouth gun toter again (anyone who doesn’t know his most popular role as that description will probably not be as amused by his role here) and the gang members themselves did a decent job of feeling threatening. I will say, however, it was slightly disconcerting to see Edi Gathegi as a gang member, considering the only previous role I saw him in was as Cole “Big Love” on House, M.D.…I certainly had to do a double take.
As can be expected the action is what kept the film alive from beginning to end. Director Wan knows what he’s doing when it comes to directing action sequences and they were easily the highlight of Death Sentence. In the end, don’t expect much from the film…nothing other than a good time, anyway. Recommended.
Death Sentence arrives on DVD in a rated/unrated DVD release (both versions on the same disc). No slipcover or insert is included and the accompanying disc art mimics the bottom portion of the cover, while the menu system is animated with music over the main menu. I forgot to mention it above, but the music in the film was actually one of the strong points and the bit that repeats over the main menu is a great example of it—I actually had it repeating for more than anyone should normally have (after popping the disc in I had to finish something else first and just left it play, hence the long repeat time of the menu music) and didn’t grow tired of it.
Moving on to the video and audio transfer to the film, I must say I was impressed with the video transfer. It does show a bit of grain here and there and there is a bit of compression that rears its head at times, but for the most part that they were able to get this much content on the disc without video issues showing up. The audio, a robust and powerful 5.1 Dolby track, is more than enough of a match for the films action packed ending and on more than one occasion the subwoofer tossed a bit of air out.
Two versions of the film are presented on the disc, via ways of seamless branching (I assume, anyway—analysis of the DVD shows two files under the same VTS window…admittedly, I’ve never tried to discern whether a DVD was seamless or not, but Fox is known for them), with a difference of six minutes between the two. From what I can tell it’s just added character scenes as well as a few more blood splatter shots towards the end of the film. There’s not enough of a difference between the two cuts to really say one is better than the other—they’re both brutal.
Moving onto the extras we get a series of bonus features that give us a decent glimpse into the making of the film. While there are no commentary tracks, we do get the ten webisodes that take us behind the scenes of the film (18:08). With each one running about two minutes in length, we get to look at the film intimately in short bursts, which is honestly one of the ways I’ve begun to prefer watching the extras. Even if it is just repeated material from the website, the webisodes are able to keep the fans interested while it’s being made and serve as a solid making-of for the DVDs once they hit.
Next up are two “fluff” featurettes that were originally aired on the Fox Movie Channel. The first is “Fox Movie Channel presents Making a Scene” (9:58) which covers the making of the first chase between Hume and the street gang, which actually taught me more than a few things about the chase as I hadn’t noticed that a large chunk of the sequence was all one shot—very impressive. Also included is “Life After Film School with Kevin Bacon” (26:22) which has Bacon being interviewed by some film students. This is a nice light and humorous piece that Bacon is more than happy to participate in.
Overall, while a commentary would have been nice, the Death Sentence is a fair DVD release. The film definitely has some replay value in the time-wasting category, so fans of Bacon, Wan, action/revenge films take note: Death Sentence is a fun one. Recommended.
Death Sentence is now on DVD.