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Death Sentence (2007)
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Details At A Glance
||Thriller / Violence
Menu Animation & Audio-Monochrome (red) visuals.
Theatrical Trailer-(02:13) Presented 2.35:1, 16x9, Dolby Digital 2.0 @ 224 Kbps
Trailer-The Brave One : 2.35:1, 16x9, Dolby Digital 2.0 @ 224 Kbps.
Trailer-Eastern Promises : 1.85:1, 16x9, Dolby Digital 2.0 @ 224 Kbp
Trailer-Death Proof : 2.35:1, 16x9, Dolby Digital 2.0 @ 224 Kbps.
Year Of Production
||Cast & Crew
||Ads Then Menu
Roadshow Home Entertainment
NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.
The genre of the vigilante film in which an ordinary man is turned into a blood-lusting warrior out to avenge the destruction of his family has been dominated for more than three decades by Charles Bronson's 1974 film Death Wish based very loosely on the novel by Brian Garfield. There have been recent incarnations which have used this basic theme to varying degrees of effect, as in the psychologically riveting Reservoir Road and Jodie Foster's The Brave One. In August 2007 Director James Wan (Saw), again using a Brian Garfield novel as his basis, presented US cinema audiences with Death Sentence, a movie which, despite, or possibly because of, the extreme violence of its climactic scenes, starts well but then loses its way. Evidently the intended audience also had difficulty in finding its way to the cinemas, as the film fared poorly in its theatrical release.
Behind the credits we see home movies of the Hume family. Father Nick (Kevin Bacon) romps and clowns with his two sons Brendan (Stuart Lafferty) and the younger Lucas (Jordan Garrett), and we get glimpses of "Mom", Helen (Kelly Preston). The home movie screen morphs into the busy offices of an insurance company, where Nick is a vice-president. When Nick arrives home to his happy family nest it is like a scene out of Father Knows Best. Such contented idyllic bliss! We know for sure that this happiness will not last for long.
Brendan is a trophy winning hockey player and one evening Nick and he are on their way home through a rough part of town when they are cruised threateningly by a car load of ski-masked punks. Nick realises that he is low on gas and reluctantly pulls into a gas station to refill. Brendan leaves Nick to enter the store and moments later the punks' sedan drives up. In the following seconds Nick is the only witness to his son's brutal machete murder. Nick and Helen struggle to keep what is left of their family together, while Nick attends a line-up arranged by the investigating Detective Wallis (Aisha Tyler from TV's Ghost Whisperer). The bereaved father is horrified to learn that his son's killing was not part of a hold-up, but an initiation test for admission to membership of a gang. From a line-up organized by Wallis, Nick "fingers" the culprit, Joe Darley (Matthew O'Leary), who then is brought to court. Nick's horror intensifies when he learns that there is no assurance of a conviction and that the harshest penalty he can hope for is a few years in jail, hardly "just" compensation for his son's death. Standing in court , in the flicker of an eyelid, Nick decides to take up the sword of justice himself, and retracts his identification of Joe as the murderer. Nick returns home, finds a weapon and promptly dispenses of the young thug - but there is a witness, and the gang is then after Nick, led by Bobby Darley (Garrett Hedlund), the older brother of murderer Joe. What we have seen thus far is pretty gripping stuff, well set up, believable characters, with a dramatic opening developing into a double revenge tale. Kevin Bacon is a fine actor, constantly working, always worth watching, and in recent years has made some brave career choices (The Woodsman). Here he appears uncomfortable in the more emotionally teary scenes, perhaps because the dialogue is so maudlin and corny and the direction heavy-handed. Kelly Preston attractively makes the most of the little she has to do, and the two young boys are fine. Aisha Tyler looks attractive, but her character is totally unbelievable as she ignores clues staring her in the face. On the "baddies" side Garrett Hedlund (Four Brothers) is totally unrecognizable, and effective, while John Goodman is overblown ham, sadly in more ways than one and with even greater excess to come in the last half hour. At this stage we are genuinely involved with this dedicated family man who has lost one son, and now, as the result of one irrational act, has placed himself and the rest of his family in such horrific jeopardy. There is a suspenseful cat and mouse game between Nick and his pursuers, highlighted by a quite breathtaking chase on foot winding up in a multi-storeyed parking station, with an incredibly long and involved single take that has the camera weaving in, out and around the parking station. This is a most spectacular and effective sequence showcasing the virtuoso skills of the director and his director of photography John R. Leonetti. Finally Nick makes his way back to his home, wife and son, and armed with nothing more than a baseball bat - we must assume he does not own a firearm - the head of the house awaits the onslaught of the vengeful gang. The terror of the threat is real, the suspense is unbearable and the outcome for the family is disastrous.
For the first hour of the film we have experienced a very effective thriller, nothing unique but generally well handled, and with at least a few gripping moments. I would not have been surprised to see the film end at this point, with the family irreparably damaged by wanton violence and vengeance. I was, of course, quite wrong and what does actually appear on the screen is dramatically incongruous and ludicrous. A hospitalised, barely alive Nick, escapes through a window in broad daylight, eluding the career challenged Aisha Tyler and her officers, and in his nightdress makes his way home. The character established is the first hour now totally disappears as Nick transforms himself into a cross between Taxi Driver's Travis Bickle and the Frankenstein monster. With his head shaved and attired in his best hoodlum gear, Nick sallies forth into the world to acquire an arsenal. From gun dealer Bones Darley (John Goodman), who just happens to be the father of the young Darley brothers, Travis - sorry - Nick buys his arsenal of weapons, and, in the process also magically acquires instant proficiency therewith. Off he lurches headed for the inevitable bloodbath. And quite a bath it is. Young Mr Wan and his obviously enthusiastic technical team work marvels as holes are blasted through walls and bodies, fingers, arms, legs, heads and torsos are shattered and splattered around the realistically dingy sets, all accompanied by ear shattering surround fireworks testing your system to its limit. I don't know how Wan can top this in a future film. Perhaps a shoot out sequence could be done nude, like the excellent fight in Eastern Promises, and just think what could get blown away in front of our eyes! Man! That would really be cool! I found this entire sequence laughable, and the moment of philosophising as the two spent warriors are reclined side by side, totally pretentious and ludicrous.
So, this is actually two movies, as it switches genres mid-stream. Admirers of the blood-bath/slasher genre should love it, although they may find the first hour or so of genuine thriller material to be a little dull. Technically the movie looks and sounds great and the action sequences are first rate, making excellent use of the wide "scope" image. If you've admired the earlier work of James Wan, then this should be an exciting movie experience. For me, the first hour was grippingly dramatic but the last forty minutes a juvenile waste of time.
Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.
The video transfer of this movie is excellent.
The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, 16x9 enhanced.
Excellent use of the wide "scope" image is made in the action sequences.
The transfer is extremely sharp and clear throughout, providing a very satisfactory viewing experience.
Shadow detail is excellent in the numerous dark sequences.
There is no low level noise.
Colour is subdued and sombre, suiting the subject matter of the film.
Much of the photography is high-contrast, emphasising the gritty nature of the content.
Skin tones are excellent within the range of the chosen palette.
There were no MPEG artefacts noted, and there were no film artefacts.
The English Descriptive Subtitles for the Hearing Impaired were sampled and found to be accurate.
The layer change occurs at 60:06 and is extremely smooth.
Video Ratings Summary
The audio is excellent, dynamic and full of surround effects.
There are two audio tracks:
English Dolby Digital 5.1 encoded at 448 Kbps; and
English Dolby Digital 2.0 encoded at 224 Kbps.
The major viewing of the film was made using the Dolby Digital 5.1 stream.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 stream was sampled and was of a comparable standard, though naturally more limited.
The dialogue was always totally natural and intelligible.
There were no drop-outs and no sync problems.
There was considerable movement across the fronts, and the surrounds were dynamic.
There is a lot of LFE activity, adding considerable "oomph" to the action sequences.
The rather appalling music, frequently mushily corny, and sounding like Titanic rejects, was well produced, making excellent use of the full surround channels.
Audio Ratings Summary
|Surround Channel Use|
There is virtually nothing more than the trailer, which is rather mean considering what is on offer on the Region 1 release.
Menu The Main Menu is presented in monochrome red - for blood no doubt - with full motion and audio of music from the film. The menu is presented 1.85:1, 16x9 enhanced, with Dolby Digital 2.0 encoded at 224 Kbps.
The options presented are : Play Film
Scene Selection : There are twenty thumbnailed cues presented on five screens, without animation or audio.
Set-Up : This screen has a still, with no animation or audio.
Options are : Audio : Dolby Digital 5.1
Dolby Digital 2.0
Captions : On/Off : English Descriptive Subtitles for the Hearing Impaired.
Theatrical Trailer : (02:13)
Quite a good trailer concentrating more on the thriller vigilante aspects rather than the bloodbath. Presented 2.35:1, and 16x9 enhanced, the image quality equal to that of the film. The audio is limited to Dolby Digital 2.0 encoded at 224 Kbps.
Additional Theatrical Trailers at Start-Up: (Total 06:03)
All three trailers have Dolby Digital 2.0 audio encoded at 224 Kbps.
The Brave One : Presented 2.35:1, 16x9 enhanced.
Eastern Promises : Presented 1.85:1, 16x9 enhanced.
Death Proof : Presented 2.35:1, 16x9 enhanced.
R4 vs R1
NOTE: To view
non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually
also NTSC compatible.
The Region 4 release misses out on these extras:
Fox Movie Channel Presents : Making a Scene (10:00), which concentrates on the single take chase sequence.
Fox Movie Channel Presents : Life After Film School with Kevin Bacon (26:00), a sit-down with three film school students interviewing the star.
Behind the Scenes Webisodes (18:00)
Audio : Spanish
Subtitles : Spanish and French
Two Versions of Feature : 105:27 and 111.04.
The Region 1 release misses out on nothing.
Any fan of this film would obviously prefer the version containing the almost one hour of extras, which sound interesting.
If you are a fan of the bloodbath movie, then this should be on your list. Be warned, however, that the build-up to the extreme violence is lengthy. The first hour, for me, was far superior and the last forty minutes a lesson in body blasting excess. While leaving much to be desired in the writing area, Kevin Bacon works hard and technically the film is quite sensational. A very good transfer with spectacular audio.
© Garry Armstrong (BioGarry)
Saturday, July 26, 2008
|DVD||Onkyo-SP500, using Component output|
|Display||Philips Plasma 42FD9954/69c.
Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080i.
|Audio Decoder||Built in to DVD player.
Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
|Speakers||VAF DC-X fronts; VAF DC-6 center; VAF DC-2 rears; LFE-07subwoofer (80W X 2)|
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