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Death Sentence Reviews

Reviewed By: Jeremy Wheeler

After a long absence, Hollywood finally delivers a fitting return to exhilarating gritty B-movie gusto in Death Sentence, a modern retooling of the Death Wish model that holds a legitimate link to the seminal stepping-stone of '70s tough-guy cinema. Delivering first-rate dramatics through the heightened eye of a director looking to impress, this adaptation of Brian Garfield's novel (itself a sequel to the first Death Wish book) is both stylish and far more emotionally real than many of its pedigreed predecessors. At the heart of the film is Kevin Bacon, in a role that tests the actor at every turn as the tragic tale of a man that tests his moral compass when pinned up against the wall by random tragedies, a system gone wrong, and a maniac with a hefty grudge. At the helm is none other than James Wan, far from the flashy Saw as well as the empty atmosphere of Dead Silence, the young Australian director shows that he has a lot more up his sleeve than just a ridiculous deep-voiced puppet (who of course makes a cameo appearance via a spray-painted mural). With the help of a few expertly staged action scenes -- including one bravura Brian De Palma-inspired shot in a parking garage -- Wan wins a great deal of respect thanks to the balance he strikes between frantic intensity and calculated technical wizardry, all the while never losing focus on the performance of his main actor. Exploitation-wise, the focus isn't on the brutal act that propels the story as in past revenge films, but as an entertaining and excessively gory release through the thrilling Taxi Driver-esque "one-man-with-a-shotgun" raid on the villain's hideout. Unfortunately, Death Sentence suffers from a poorly placed soundtrack that nearly ruins a few key moments in the film, either by the use of a stereotypical angelic songstress or through one particular sad tune that unfortunately rears its head in not one, but two integral points in the picture. Still, there's little doubt that revenge-lovers will come away pleasantly surprised at the craft and class that's in store for them here.