Saturday, September 01, 2007

DEATH SENTENCE suffers from bipolar disorder

DEATH SENTENCE was a potentially great movie but suffered from a change of concept half way through. The first half is a well-acted and deeply moving tale of loss. Kevin Bacon and Kelly Preston play a middle-class middle-aged couple who lose their elder son in an unmotivated gang assault. The father decides not to testify against the gang member responsible. Instead, after some procastination, and before the self-disgust and sinister pride, he takes revenge.

I really loved this half of the film. It was told with economy (viz. the opening montage of home videos) and I really liked the washed out look of the film. Kelly Preston and Kevin Bacon acted their grief convincingly and Bacon was especially good at showing the different stages by which an apparently normal guy becomes a vigilante. Best of all, it seemed as through the movie was going to have the balls to fling out the conventional vigilante movie ending with something much darker and realistic.

Of course, that would only have given the flick an eighty minute run-time. So director James "SAW" Wan tacks on a 30 minute coda that is pure video-game mindless shoot-em-up violence. The whole look and tone of the flick changes. Not that this isn't a lot of fun. John Goodman's cameo as the gang leader is Pure Comedy Gold. But it just felt like between the reels we'd been sucked into a COMPLETELY different film.

DEATH SENTENCE is currently on release in the UK and USA. It opens in Germany on September 13th, in the Netherlands on September 27th, in Turkey on October 5th and in Belgium on November 21st 2007.


  1. Now maybe, just maybe, the father’s reaction is realistic and indeed he seeks to revenge his son – an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. And agreed, even the acting is quite good up to that point. However, it’s downhill, and steeply so, from then on. How does he know that the guy from behind him wants to shoot him? And how can 5 trained gang boys just miss him in narrow alleyway ten time in a row? Anyway, we’re still far from how bad it really gets. Once back at home with full police protection although being by now a known (!) killer himself, he gets shot only to wake up in hospital a couple of days later. Where, after having a dramatic monologue (not) in front of his comatose son, he elegantly bypasses the waiting cops by nipping out of the window to walk HOME, where the police of course never actually checks whether he might have gone there. Back in the 50hp insurance risk manager Chrysler, but by now looking like a badly kempt and heavily beaten up Becks, he looks to buy some guns. And, just to show how bad gang life really is, it’s the gang leader’s FATHER who sells him a whole lot of dangerous tools to kill his son. The showdown itself is rather poor in a run-down hospital, which he reaches after driving THROUGH the van of the guy that’s guarding the place (now in the Bourne Identity, JB at least pretends to use a seatbelt for such kamikaze moves, but I reckon that must be due to the outstanding CIA training). Getting shot at from both sides at the same time, he still walks out with only a slight bleeding in the throat to drive home to watch some family movies. I won’t even mention that the only thing the police officer does is to come by his house to let him know that his son has awaken from coma again.

    So no, bipolar disorder is too mild. It’s plain crap. Full stop.

  2. Hola Professor! I agree the second half jumps the shark. But didn't you find it even slightly fun, on a purely superficial level? Not even when the gun seller is telling the dad he's a "preferred customer"??!!

  3. I liked it - both halves for the same reasons as you Bina... Damn, now I have to try and review it without looking like I just copied you!!