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Death Sentence is a 2007 crime-action-drama film loosely based on the 1975 novel by Brian Garfield. The film is directed by Saw director James Wan, and stars Kevin Bacon as Nick Hume, a man who takes the law into his own hands after his son is murdered by a gang as an initiation ritual, and must protect his family from the gang's vengeance. The film premiered on August 31, 2007. It took place and was filmed in Columbia, South Carolinamarker. The film was released on DVD on January 8, 2008. Although a commercial disappointment, it received moderately favorably reviews, even by author Garfield.

Plot

Nick Hume is husband to Helen, and father to two boys, Brendan and Lucas. After a hockey game, Nick and his oldest son Brendan, the star of the team, drive home and talk of Brendan's future. The pair flash their headlights at two passing cars with their headlights off. They then make a quick stop at a gas station to get some fuel. While Brendan is getting a slushie inside, the two cars they passed earlier, containing gang members, arrive. It is revealed that a new gang member (Joe) must prove himself man enough to become one of them, so he proceeds to slash Brendan's throat with a machete. Nick attempts to ambush the thugs and pulls off Joe's mask, seeing his face, but the man escapes only to be hit by a car. Nick rushes Brendan to the hospital, but he later dies from major blood loss.

Nick discovers that, if the case goes to court at all, the murderer will only be sentenced to 3 to 5 years in jail for his crime, so he forces the police to drop the case. Joe, now a free man, becomes the target of Nick's revenge; he is eventually killed when Nick purposely stabs him with a rusty knife at his house, but is wounded on the hand in the process. The gang's leader Billy Darley wants revenge for the death of his little brother, and as they discover that a gang member's sister did happen to see a man around the night that Joe died they quickly amuse that it was the father of the guy that Joe killed. They ambush Nick the next day, but he escapes, taking another gang member's life in the process. Billy warns Nick that they will be coming for his family and that he purposely bought them a 'death sentence.'

The police detective whose been following Nick's case, Detective Jessica Wallis, aware of what is happening, grants Nick's family protection and have a callout to Billy's gang. The officers watching over the family are killed, and the gang members make their way inside, where they shoot Nick, his wife Helen, and his other son Luke.

Nick and Luke survive, but Helen does not. After Detective Wallis gives a brief speech to how wars are never settled, she lets Nick pay a short visit to his now comatose son, apologizing for not being a better father, Nick escapes from the hospital to go after the remaining gang members. He obtains guns from a black market dealer (who has been the gang's boss up until this point, and is revealed to be Billy's father) and heads to Billy's lair to kill the remainder of the gang. He manages to kill everyone of the gang members including Billy, though not before being wounded severely and Billy admitting that he did infact made Nick into a vicious killer just like him.

With his family now avenged, Nick returns home and turns on the TV to watch the videos of his family before the whole incident started. Detective Wallis arrives and tell him that his son started moving and will live. Nick shows a sign of relief and looks back to the TV. It shows Luke, Helen, Nick and Brendan singing on the couch.

In the unrated version, Nick seemingly dies from his wounds.

Cast



Critical reception

On the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, 19% of critics gave the film positive reviews based on 106 reviews, as of February 27, 2009. On Metacritic, the film had an average score of 36 out of 100, based on 24 reviews. Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film 2 1/2 stars out of 4. He compared Death Sentence to the Death Wish films starring Charles Bronson, saying: "In the Bronson movies, the hero just looked more and more determined until you felt if you tapped his face, it would explode. In Death Sentence, Bacon acts out a lot more." Ebert called Death Sentence "very efficient", praising "a courtroom scene of true surprise and suspense, and some other effective moments", but concluded that "basically this is a movie about a lot of people shooting at each other".

Scott Tobias of The A.V. Club said the film is "certainly never boring" but felt that director James Wan was "too busy jamming the accelerator to realize that his movie's spinning out of control." Matt Zoller Seitz of The New York Times said, "Aside from a stunning three-minute tracking shot as the gang pursues Nick through a parking garage, and Mr. Bacon's hauntingly pale, dark-eyed visage, Mr. Wan's film is a tedious, pandering time-waster." Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly felt that "[t]he morality of revenge is barely at issue in a movie that pushes the plausibility of revenge right over a cliff." Conversely, Justin Chang of Variety called the film "well-made, often intensely gripping". Similarly, Bill Gibron of PopMatters felt the film was "a significant movie" and "a wonderfully tight little thriller". Darren Amner of Eye for Film also gave the film a positive review, praising Bacon's performance in particular: "[H]is portrayal is emotional, sympathetic and highly aggressive. As a father he is touching and as a stone-cold killing machine he is even more convincing."

Author Brian Garfield, who wrote the novel the film is loosely based on, said of the film: "While I could have done with a bit less blood-and-thunder, I think it's a stunningly good movie. In the details of its story it's quite different from the novel, but it's a movie, not a novel. In its cinematic way it connects with its audience and it makes the same point the book makes, and those are the things that count." He also liked that, like his novels, but unlike the Death Wish film series, it does not advocate vigilantism. Garfield further explained in an interview: "I think that, except for its ludicrous violence toward the end, the Death Sentence movie does depict its character's decline and the stupidity of vengeful vigilantism", adding, "As a story it made the point I wanted it to make."

Similarities to the novel

The film has little in common with the novel, which was a sequel to Death Wish. The novel follows Paul Benjamin, the main character of Death Wish, moving to Chicago, Illinoismarker with a new girlfriend after his daughter dies in a mental institution, continuing his vigilantism. The novel also deals with Benjamin's attempts to stop a new, antagonistic vigilante copying his methods for publicity. The film, while borrowing elements from the Death Wish and Death Sentence novels, follows a new character, Nick Hume, as his family suffers a gang-related attack similar to that of Benjamin's in Death Wish.

References

  1. Death Sentence | Film Scott Tobias, The A.V. Club, August 30, 2007
  2. Movie Review - Death Sentence Matt Zoller Seitz, The New York Times, August 30, 2007
  3. Death Sentence | Movie Review Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly, Sep 05, 2007
  4. Death Sentence Review Justin Chang, Variety, Aug. 30, 2007
  5. Short Cuts - In Theaters: Death Sentence (2007) | Short Ends and Leader Bill Gibron, PopMatters, 2007
  6. Death Sentence Movie Review (2007) Darren Amner, Eye for Film, 2007
  7. http://www.briangarfield.net/events.htm Retrieved 2007-09-14
  8. Historian: Interview with Brian Garfield Nikki Tranter, PopMatters, 5 March 2008


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