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Death Sentence DVD Review

Extreme horror director James Wan (Saw and son of Saw) crosses over into vigilante action thriller territory, taking along some of his tools of torture with him, for Death Sentence. Based on Death Wish scribe Brian Garfield’s novel of the same name, this white collar revenge fantasy is more tainted yuppie superhero wet dream than anti-inner city backlash burb paranoid freakout. As a result, the lines are more clearly drawn as to distributed dark sides, and inevitably less compelling in terms of emotional empathy, however warped.

Kevin Bacon is Nick Hume, a stressed out family man who loses the high school hockey hero son he dotes on, after a gang attack during which a young thug is commanded to stab Hume’s boy in a store as an initiation rite into the wilding tribe. After watching in horror as his son dies, Hume prepares to testify against the perpetrator as the sole eyewitness, but then changes his mind after the prosecutor levels with him about the slim chances of a substantial, if any conviction.

As a high stakes corporate wheeler dealer who takes a concept like winner-take-all daily triumph in stride, Hume can’t tolerate the thought of this killer getting off easy. So he drops the charges, selects some gardening tools turned deadly weapons out his garden shed, and corners and kills the kid outside his grimy tenement.

What ensues is a bloody attack and counter-attack turf war scenario between the slums and the suburbs of an unnamed city, as Hume and the gang go gory tit for tat for the duration. Where a guy in a business suit, normally armed with nothing more than an attache case, picked up all those formidable combat skills, is anybody’s guess.

And any potential star power here is mostly consigned to the sidelines, including John Travolta’s main squeeze Kelly Preston as Hume’s passively suffering, helplessly perplexed wife, and John Goodman as the designated gangsta’s bad dad of the movie. He’s likely around to make Bacon’s obsessively protective patriarch look a whole lot better than he does, in case you didn’t get that.

As usual in these predator and prey blood sport revenge marathons, there’s never a cop in sight, even during the usual daylight midtown mayhem. But there is one detective who always strolls in on cue after each massacre has run its course, played by a really inappropriately cool, calm and collected Aisha Tyler. Though she does get one of the best cuttingly class-conscious lines in the movie when she tells off the presumptuous big bucks vigilante Hume during a house call, ‘You think you could kill some *******, because you live way out here.’ This Death Sentence companion piece in the here and now could be a commentary on the US and Iraq, perhaps. Class warfare defeat for all, in both the battle and the war.

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Two Versions: Unrated and Rated R

DVD Features: Contains “two versions of the film (via branching), with both the R rated theatrical cut and a new unrated cut of the film that includes over 10 minutes of never-before-seen footage that was ‘too intense for theaters.”

Behind The Scenes:

Fox Movie Channel Presents: Making A Scene

Fox Movie Channel Presents: Life After Film School with Kevin Bacon


Director James Wan

Transforming Nick Hume

The Cars

Creating the Character Bill Darley

James Wan: From Horror to Action

Making the Garage Sequence

Fight Choreography & Stunts

Shooting the Chase

Designing the Look

The Car Drop

Interactive Features:

Branching Footage – Unrated Version (10 min.)

Prairie Miller is a New York multimedia journalist online, in print and radio, who reviews movies and conducts in-depth interviews. She can also be heard on WBAI/Pacifica National Radio Network’s Arts Express.

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