Nick Hume is a mild-mannered executive with a perfect life, until one gruesome night he witnesses something that changes him forever. Transformed by grief, Hume eventually comes to the distu... Read allNick Hume is a mild-mannered executive with a perfect life, until one gruesome night he witnesses something that changes him forever. Transformed by grief, Hume eventually comes to the disturbing conclusion that no length is too great when protecting his family.Nick Hume is a mild-mannered executive with a perfect life, until one gruesome night he witnesses something that changes him forever. Transformed by grief, Hume eventually comes to the disturbing conclusion that no length is too great when protecting his family.
There's one "virtuoso" scene as critics like to call it - which is euphemism for 'impressive' - where Kevin Bacon is being chased by the thugs, first on the street during day time (they don't give a f*** so much they open fire in broad daylight with a lot of people on the street), and then give chase through alleys, inside a kitchen, and leading out to a parking lot. Though at first it's cut fairly conventionally, the way Wan is shooting this is inspired (he used a 'rickshaw' type of device so the camera could lead in front of the actors at a faster speed, plus on golf carts), but when it gets into the parking lot Wan decides to go full Chanwook Park and do it in one shot. And it's done with extreme creativity (both extreme and creative) as Bacon and the other actors are running, actually running, and going through little patches of space to go one level to another until our (anti)hero gets to the top level where his car is at.
That last aspect of how he happened to be where his car is exactly at is convenient story-wise (that it's the parking lot where he works at, he just happened to get back there while running in a frenzy), nevertheless Wan has a strong visual idea and executes it with his crew wonderfully. And throughout much (though not all) of Death Sentence, he is doing his best to make a (to say it generously) hit or miss screenplay fly as something harrowing and intense. The movie gives us a good look at a family - the dialog between this somewhat typical 'happy' family, brothers in-fight a bit, one son gets in trouble at school (where mom happens to be Dean) - and then the bad thing happens, where one of the sons is killed in a "gang initiation" thing that looks like a gas station robbery, and the killer is let go without much fanfare.
The details of how this young thug is practically let go by the court for, uh, "reasons" is a little too tidy and convenient (the gas station happened to be the "only one in America" without surveillance), and maybe that's what I keep coming back to as a problem with the movie: convenience, things that the movie kind of lets go so the story can keep going forward. Other things like that is how the cop character (Detective Wallis, played by Aisha Tyler replacing a "50-ish white guy", which is cool!) doesn't do more when Nick Hume starts to take matters into his own hands, first going after the released killer in the middle of the night, and then when, later on (spoilers) two cops are killed while the main batch of criminals go through them to get into Nick's house in the middle of the night to settle scores. Like, I know you're angry at Nick for making this situation worse and worse by starting s*** with criminals, but now two cops are DEAD, you have more important things to worry about now!
So there's logic inconsistencies. Why recommend it? For me, the gritty approach to the camera-work and the acting from the criminal characters (and John Goodman in a small but pivotal role!) connected and felt strong. I can criticize certain parts of the style, like the choice of music (sometimes it's alright, other times it feels like it was picked by an uninspired/lazy music supervisor with some of these songs), but Wan mostly got how to make this intense by going for 'real' and yet it's still a cinematic approach to the 'real', if that makes sense, like it has a logical approach to how characters move through rooms and buildings and work with guns.
The other aspect is Bacon. He really, really brings it and if you like him generally this is him going full blown fiery/emotional force. But there's a progression to it - he is playing a 'normal' guy, fairly white collar, suburban middle class, and when Nick does this first violent act he's genuinely shocked, in tears, shaking. It's not something that looks and feels like a movie character that brushes things off, and his vulnerability brings us closer to his experience as he digs himself deeper into vigilante/revenge drama (even down to how he does a 'Taxi Driver' shaving-head bit, which is much messier and all the better for it). All the while, this actor brings it and finds the moments where nuance can play into it. He and Wan and a few other things elevate a hackneyed script, which is the exception to the general principle of 'script script script'. In this sake, I dug it. Usually.
- Jul 18, 2016