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Death Sentence
cast: Kevin Bacon, Aisha Taylor, Kelly Preston, Stuart Laffert, John Goodman

director: James Wan

106 minutes (18) 2006
widescreen ratio 2.40:1
EIV DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 7/10
reviewed by Gary McMahon
It's probably for the best if I get this out up front, just to set the context: I love politically incorrect right-wing vigilante films. There, I feel better. Don't you? If not, I might have to kill you.

Death Sentence is, basically, a remake of the excellent Death Wish, the daddy of all modern vigilante films: according to the end credits, the screenplay is based on Brian Garfield's seminal novel. Any other resemblance is purely coincidental. Michael Winner's glorious exploitation film latched on to a certain zeitgeist, a prevalent mood at a particular time; unfortunately, this one doesn't, but don't start thinking that makes it a bad movie. It isn't. It's actually a pretty good example of its type, as far as these things go: short on logic but with plenty of action and some throwaway 'violence begets only more violence' philosophy mixing incongruously with some gleeful scenes of carnage.

Kevin Bacon, a magnificent actor who automatically elevates whatever project he chooses to be involved with, gives a superb performance as a man whose life is invaded by casual violence. To be honest, his work here is far too good for the material. Kelly Preston is good value as his wife, whose character sort of vanishes once their son is murdered in a gangland initiation ritual and good old daddy starts to go off the rails. John Goodman appears briefly, cast against type as a vile crime boss. Most of the rest of the cast are forgettable (as well as expendable), and it's really Bacon's show all the way.

The American justice system comes under attack here, along with meal-ticket criminal prosecutors and uncaring defence attorneys, and a grieving father turns slowly into a Travis Bickle clone to avenge the death of his favourite son. By the time he's shaved his head and bought a bag full of guns, we're rooting for the all-American psycho in a way that would make George Bush proud.

There are many visual references to Taxi Driver in the final bloody shootout, but this film is nowhere near as serious or artful. It's simply a slam-bang exploitation flick, with more in common with Abel Ferrara's Ms. 45 (aka: Angel Of Vengeance) than Scorsese's still-relevant masterpiece.

I really shouldn't like this film, but I loved it.
NEXT

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