What can be said about Death Sentence that isn't already expressed with a single image of a bloody and bruised Kevin Bacon? This image has become somewhat iconic for me granted I've revisited Death Sentence for the third time in under a week. His frail figure wields a shotgun with every intention of retribution in this stunning remake of Brian Garfield's Death Wish series that surpasses everything that Death Wish never really touched base on; loss and godawful sorrow. Death Sentence is one of those ugly films that creates a textured cityscape of characters and chance encounters while playing god who could be very well listening to aggressive metal. Everything that happens in this film drags a wistful Bacon downwards into a cinematic study of the new and improved, definitive "man with nothing to lose." Coming from the tiny director of the original Saw film, James Wan, Death Sentence is a hell of a surprise and covers rusty milieu and bitter flavors en masse.
Regarding the tact nature of his family's demise, I personally have not seen a film that echoes so heavily the feeling of lonesome as Death Sentence does. It was bad enough losing his golden child to a gang initiation trial hosted by a multicultural troupe of degenerates, but once Kevin Bacon strikes back upon the one who sliced his son's neck open, a war erupts instantaneously. The debris and carnage left behind can be tracked back to two key ingredients that throttled the downfall of this bourgeois household; selfishness and vengeance. Had Kevin Bacon not pursued exacting his own brand of justice upon the runt-like Joe Darley, the rest of his family would have been out of harms way and it would have remained the death of one "rich little faggot." So against all psychological happenstance, Death Sentence is a film that is multi-gendered; on one hand, it's a film about exacting grisly vengeance and on the other hand, a film chronicling the moral decay of a once-family man as he becomes exactly what he swore to punish.
Halfway into the film comes one of cinema's most profound chase sequences committed to celluloid since Children of Men. Escaping on foot with his suitcase wildly waving through the alleys of crust and recycled goods, Nick Hume (Bacon) flees through many buildings while being chased by many tattooed and pierced thugs in a suspense-driven pursuit which leads him to a parking garage. Unable to stop the velocity of his body, he crumples into a car setting off its alarm. Taking this idea and systematically using the same survival instinct we later see in the bloodbath of atonement, he zigzags from car to car setting off their respective beacon in a dazzling attempt to hurdle his foes into a state of bewilderment. It's set-ups like these that make me understand that there is still fresh life to be squeezed into these modern action thrillers. Once the game of cat-and-mouse has desisted, Nick Hume retracts from noticeably upset senior VP to an afflicted lamb scurrying home to try and make reparations for what he has done. The cast of Death Sentence is wildly supportive and over-stricken with sympathy which helps the film establish a credible habitat restrained only by the boundaries of film.
As author Brian Garfield said concerning Death Wish and Charles Bronson's portrayal, "vigilantism is an attractive fantasy but it only makes things worse in reality." These words ring quite true when comparing Death Sentence to its creative predecessor. Also quick to jab at the alleged "blood-and-thunder" that occupies the last twenty minutes, I view this scene of extermination as the meat and the potatoes of the film; not as some violence-prone sweaty nerd but as a man who understands pain and these twangs of emptiness. Nick Hume's final stand is one to be reckoned with, both through the confines of cinema and its regurgitated after-effect. This motion picture is not just one of uncompromising entertainment but a film with a cold heart that pumps the very venom of Hume's absent rage into our visions as this "ostracidal" odyssey continues to tread on the sacred ground of a suburban welcome mat.
Coating its grievous nature with a glorifying epic shoot-out scene is exactly what this film needed to do to separate itself fully from the nature of its depression-inciting music video-like scenes of lamenting. Death Sentence, as a collected product, is a mean-spirited sucker punch delivered swiftly to the abdominal. Often presenting a desecrated family amidst the hum of dreary VH1-infused folk ballads, the instinct of a bloodthirsty beast in incarnated among the labyrinthine hallways of the "Office," the crack-den that looks to be what the safe haven would resemble if Abel Ferrara shot up with junk-used needles while playing Silent Hill. A revamped Death Wish starring the ghostly Kevin Bacon using expletive and ghastly violence in order to purge the streets from the flaccid youth? Sign me up for what might be the best recycling of an idea proving justly that remakes aren't always bad. Just take Death Sentence and Last Man Standing along for a wild ride in resuscitating faith in the ultra-violent and macabre and you'll be overdosing on gun play euphoria in no time.