Death Sentence (R)

Action/Adventure 110 August 31, 2007
By Jim Ridley
There's no degree of separation between risk-assessment executive Kevin Bacon and the gangbangers who killed his son in the first of this season's you-toucha-my-family-I-keel-you thumbscrewers — a gory, anti-revenge tale seemingly resurrected from the catacombs of Cannon Films. (It's based on a novel by Brian Garfield, reportedly written to counteract the pro-vigilante slant Hollywood gave his Death Wish.) The director, Saw-teur James Wan, lays the genre mechanism bare — innocents will be placed in harm's way, the hero will retaliate and become no better than the bad guys, then the bad guys will do something even more heinous. We, with a combination of sympathy and bloodlust, respond to each new zap. Or we would, if the movie weren't so laughable in every common-sense detail — starting with Bacon's instant transformation from pencil pusher to demolition man. A motif of father-son, eye-for-an-eye overkill and some choice talk about the futility of war from an otherwise ineffectual detective (Aisha Tyler) raise the possibility that this is some kind of au-courant, post-9/11 allegory. But the only things anyone's likely to remember, besides Bacon's crazy-eyes act, are John Goodman's soon-to-be-legendary turn as a bilious, bug-eyed gun dealer and a hellacious back-alley-parking-garage chase shot seen through a fender-level camera. Like much of the movie, it's as hammily dynamic as it is impossible to swallow.
James Wan Kevin Bacon, Garrett Hedlund, Kelly Preston, John Goodman, Aisha Tyler, Leigh Whannell, Matt O'Leary, Yorgo Constantine, Stuart Lafferty, Jordan Garrett Brian Garfield, Ian Jeffers Nick Hamson Fox Atomic