- KILLER OF KILLERS: Kevin Bacon in 'Death Sentence.'
After you've reviewed movies for awhile, you figure out a few things. You know, stuff like: Any film set in pre-Industrial Revolution England is going to be a downer, no matter how romantic the trailer makes it look. A Christopher Walken cameo can bring sunshine into the darkest night. And: Any movie with a gerund for a title — “The Quickening,” The Reaping,” “The Blackening” — is going to be so horrible that you're going to wish the theater would catch fire. That way, you could run out with your jacket over your head so nobody would know you actually paid to see it.
The first thing you figure out as a reviewer, however, is this: August. Movies. Suck.
That's right. If a movie is scheduled for release in August, you can bet that it pushes the suckage to 11. There is an ocean called Cinema, and the tail end of summer is its Bermuda Triangle — the dark, unholy crossroads where the film industry goes at midnight to bury its most misshapen, Rob Schneideresque offspring.
Case in point: the new revenge flick, “Death Sentence.” Clunky, stupid, uneven, bloody, plotless, pointless and loud, the only way this movie could have been worse is if it had Kevin Bacon in it.
Here, Kevin Bacon plays Nick Hume, an insurance industry exec who is the proud, doting papa to hockey-playing golden boy Brendon (Stuart Lafferty) — a fact which miffs to no end bookish younger son and heir-spare Lucas (Jordan Garrett). Coming back from a hockey meet with Brendon, Nick foolishly steers his beige Camry onto the wrong side of the tracks. He makes things double bad by stopping for gas in the ‘hood when the “low fuel” light comes on — carelessly disregarding the “For God's Sake, Don't Stop Here, You Yuppie Moron” light flashing beside it. Next thing you know, baby-faced Brendon has been killed by a group of multi-culti robbers/gangbangers led by tattooed dead-ender and meth-dealer Billy Darley (Garrett Headlund). With Darley's kid brother left behind in the getaway and soon nabbed by the police, Nick is dismayed to hear from prosecutors that they're willing to cut a deal with the killer that will have him back on the street in 3 to 5 years. Given that, Nick purposefully blows his testimony at trial. When his son's murderer goes free, Nick turns vigilante, sparking an escalating war between himself and Darley's gang that eventually comes to a bloody end.
Directed by James Wan, who also helmed gore-fest hits “Saw” and “Saw II,” “Death Sentence” finds a lot of its inspiration in the “Death Wish” movies of the 1970s. What it also shares with those movies is the sense that in the real world, the button-down-hero-turned-revenge-killer's life expectancy would have been roughly that of a line of blow in Lindsey Lohan's dressing room. Watching thoroughly-suburban hockey dad Nick turn into a shaved-head, leather-jacketed, shotgun-toting, ass-kicking killer of killers quickly sprints past “Suspension of Disbelief” and “No Friggin' Way” before falling breathlessly into the arms of “Chinchillas Would Fly Out of My Grandmother's Ass Before That Could Happen.” Even worse, if that's possible, is that the film's so-inconceivable-as-to-be-stupid scenes are cut with patented “touching” moments — complete with naked Kevin Bacon (with fetal position action!) crying in the bathtub, the younger son screaming “YOU WISH IT HAD BEEN ME, DON'T YOU?!?” and soft piano music to help lull you into that diabetic coma.
If there's a bright spot, it might be the longish cameo by John Goodman as Billy Darley's gunrunner scumbag father, Bones. While Goodman is great here (reminiscent of Levon Helm's outstanding cameo in the similarly-crummy Mark Wahlberg vehicle “Shooter”), he's onscreen for a total of about five minutes, and there's only so much he can do in that short a time to prop up this mess.