Death Sentence (2007)
Protect What's Yours
A movie based on a novel that seems very similar to another movie that was far more low budget. Revenge movies have been a thing for a long time, and most the time I don't feel that it gets as convoluted as what I just said - usually it's pretty straight forward. The entire premise of a revenge movie is to just feed off a base emotion that we all have and can all get behind when it comes to fantasy offerings (such as movies) even if we wouldn't act upon such things in real life. Some of these things can be a little too much for the average viewer - for example I Spit on your Grave - but the more base ones leave nothing but some violence and potential language to stir the emotional uprisings. Tonight, we see if Death Sentence is a nice shiny polish on a story we've all seen before, or if it should have taken it's own title as advice.
As the preamble already gave away, there isn't going to be a whole lot story-wise here that we haven't already seen before. Revenge begets revenge in a vicious circle until one side doesn't have anyone left to reciprocate. A base morality play added unto the foundations of on screen emotional fantasizing is really probably the only major thing that's slightly refreshing in regards to the plot. In most of the films of this type I've seen, we know that getting revenge is "wrong," but end up rooting for the main character because we want to see those bad guys get their lead-karma while it's still hot. Here though, the daisy-chain of vengeance circling around itself like the waters of a toilet being flushed is flaunted about in practically all ways besides a text scroll somewhere - an ample reminder that sometimes revenge isn't the best option, no matter how satisfying it may seem.
Beyond that, we also have some stellar acting with such faces as Kevin Bacon and John Goodman - the second of which I didn't realize was in the movie until he showed up, despite being a somewhat side-character role for the movie. The main brunt of the trauma acting falls on the main character (that being Bacon) and his family, and they do quite a good job of selling the emotional state of their characters despite all handling it in different ways. The detective character throws in some decent acting as well - letting on that she knows more than she says often enough, although her character itself feels a bit of a wash despite the well done acting. On the gang front, acting is suitable enough, with the main villain being a bit over-the-top and all around lousy at his job despite commanding the crew of baddies we see.
The movie takes most of it's credit and a bit after to montage us through the "happy family" moments and get us to where we need to be in understanding the families bonds. We then have a little bit of downtime at the start before the race begins to drive home the feeling of potential preference of one son before ripping him away to setup the revenge premise. From there, it's plenty of action scenes with a few reflective moments in-between - coming from both sides. It doesn't ever feel too bogged down in the thought though, and largely keeps pace after the initial family mourning segment - with the violence and action reaching a proper crescendo at the end and echoing home a line delivered by the detective a few scenes prior.
The effects work is good, with the occasional outrageous looking effect in regards to the violence. Probably the worst of the batch was real early into the movie, with most the later moments having either toned down amounts of blood or a darker setting more beneficial to the effect itself. There is one shot midway in the movie where it seems like the quality of the camera itself dropped, or perhaps maybe it was just out of focus - as it's the only time I really noticed something not looking right quality-wise on the camera front (home movies looking suitably old and VHS aside). Outfits aren't generally anything outrageous, but they do a good job adding a little extra thug to all the gang members with tattoos and bandanas and leathers - and really nice cars. It's almost a shame there wasn't more of those cars, but I suppose a chase scene really wouldn't have fit that well into the movie with how it tried to handle itself so seriously.
Of course, with how the foot chase was shot I can't particularly say that a car chase would have been that appealing to watch on screen. The movie tends to never want to stay still during action scenes - frantic pans, sudden zooms, shaking and cutting often. Yes, it gives the impression of high energy - but it also wants to give you a headache. I'm not a fan of it personally, but I'm sure others will mind far less than I about it. The finale seems to reign this in a little bit, but instead choose to do these pans that transfer from one character to another in such a way that you completely loose all track of where anyone is, fully expecting that two characters should be staring each other eye to eye only to find out there in two completely separate areas of a building. It's still a tense scene, it just could have used some smoothing out as far as placement.
Audio balancing is well done, and actor line delivery is also good. Most of the time the music helps elaborate on how you should be feeling, and during particularly emotional parts it'll tend to queue up the sad lyric music to try and cheap-shot you into feeling things. It works better some times than others, and there are a few times that it happens where it feels like it's getting used in the wrong place. Beyond that though, it all does it's job. Although by the end our main character feels a little larger than life, the movie holds people together pretty well on a realistic scale besides that - with the exception of the cops, who don't think to look for a guy at his house after he goes missing from under their noses until a full day after. The cops in this movie are pretty much worthless.
Overall, it's a decent movie. It takes itself a bit more serious than some of the other revenge movies I've seen - although dealing with just death is a far more approachable topic than some of the more hard-edge rape ones for sure. Bacon does a great job acting as he usually does, and it is nice to see a hero in one of these movies who mostly feels like a guy getting lucky than a full on action hero the second he decides he wants revenge. It's not particularly going out of its way to step up the genre in any way, and I feel some of it certainly isn't shot stylistically to my liking, but it's far from being something you regret watching afterwards.