Death Penalty

Kevin Bacon's revenge drama drowns its message in brutal images

Review D+

August 31, 2007|By Michael Sragow | Michael Sragow,Sun Movie Critic

Apart from one urban cliffhanger set in a parking garage - it should have an afterlife as an action sequence long after the rest of this sorry celluloid has turned to soup - the grandiose, grimly silly revenge thriller Death Sentence will mostly benefit free-form players of "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon." Bacon can now readily be linked to nonpareil macho movie star Charles Bronson, because Death Sentence is based on novelist Brian Garfield's 1975 sequel to Death Wish, which Bronson and director Michael Winner turned into a hit vigilante film in 1974.

Garfield's Death Wish was radically more ambivalent than the violent smash that emerged from Winner's canny, crowd-pleasing filmmaking, a portrait of a deteriorating New York as the Wild East and Bronson as an upper-crust Manhattanite turned latter-day Western lawman sans tin star. Unlike Winner, Garfield viewed crime and vigilantism as contagions. Before seeing Death Sentence, he said its portrait of a family man decomposing after thugs kill his older son is true "in theme if not particulars" to his novel, that the script is good and the cast excellent. He also said, "It's a violent action film. That seems to be a requirement of this angry era. I could do with a lot less blood and thunder."

Death Sentence (20th Century Fox) Starring Kevin Bacon, Garrett Hedlund, Kelly Preston, John Goodman. Directed by James Wan. Rated R. Time 99 minutes.

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