Pay no attention to its poor theatrical gross; "Death Sentence" is a rather effective throwback to the Seventies revenge genre, boasting a solid lead performance and further strengthening the reputation of its on-the-rise director.
Miles from "Footloose," Kevin Bacon fuels the film as Nick, a risk-assessment executive who lives a golden life until one night, in the wrong part of town, masked young men kill his son in a gang initiation. All but one get away, and when it looks like the law isn't going to put that trash behind bars, Nick instantly plots a one-man mission of vengeance. He's vastly outnumbered, but never underestimate the rage of a grieving father "¦ especially one with a shed full of sharp tools.
Bacon has turned in enough fine performances ("Mystic River," "Murder in the First," "The Woodsman") to shed his early heartthrob image, and his role is particularly strong once his character has something to lose, and does. Now 49 years old, Bacon's looks finally are catching up to his maturity; his thin face is approaching a skeletal visage, making Nick's beaten-down soul all the more believable.
The real wattage is supplied by director James Wan ("Saw," "Dead Silence"), infusing the picture with the tightly wound set pieces at which he excels. An extended foot chase ending up played out across multiple levels of a parking garage is exceptionally tense. Parts of "Death Sentence" are brutal, violent and tough to watch. But they also serve a purpose, putting you squarely on Bacon's side, however disturbing. "?Rod Lott