The Forgotten Degree
Yesterday, it was revealed that Eli Roth would be directing a new Death Wish film, starring Bruce Willis in his second, old guy, revenge flick (if we’re counting the Red franchise). Admittedly, there is a lot to like about that news. As Eli Roth branches into more studio fare, he still has his own distinct style when it comes to filming unspeakable acts of violence. And hopefully, this role will knock Bruce out of his catatonic state enough to get a convincing performance out of him. But what struck me as odd, is that no one really brought up the 2007 film Death Sentence, which was essentially the Death Wish remake we never knew we wanted, and is highly under appreciated. If only because it was ahead of the curve on the current state of action affairs.
I’m not going to tell you how spellbinding and world changing this flick from 2007 was, no, that would be disingenuous. I will tell you that the third film from director James Wan is better than you’d expect, and if you’re in the market for any film in the vein of Death Wish, you should definitely look it up. At the time of its release, Roger Ebert praised the performances of Kevin Bacon, Garret Hedlund and John Goodman. Crediting the film for being creepy, suspenseful and at times scary.
At times Death Sentence dips into the pitfalls of violence in a way most movies avoid. You get to live vicariously through the worst days in Nick Hume’s (Kevin Bacon) life. He’s not some gritty, street savior. He’s a man who has been greatly affected by senseless gang violence, when his son is killed as part of an initiation, and said killer gets off due to a series technicalities, as well as indirect ramifications of poverty; a malfunctioning security camera at a shady gas station. Nick is a man, turned to violence after a system he has full trust in, isn’t able to offer his family any solace, and it’s all played out like a horror movie of sorts. Tapping into Wan’s earlier films, Saw and Dead Silence.
You never feel comfortable during Death Sentence. Nick is never fully in control of any situation. His one off attempt at revenge sends his world spiraling into a death spin. The seemingly multi-cultural gang he’s wronged, during his retaliation, doesn’t play by the rules he expected. Even while Nick is arming himself to the teeth, freshly shaved head, and clad in leather, it’s a death march, not the beginning of a reckoning. When the shooting does break out, it’s not cool, or calculated. The shots are clumsy, yet catastrophic. All at once, you’re reminded this is a suburban dad against street punks, neither of which have been to a range, but are hell bent on destruction. It’s the very essence of the first Death Wish, and the books they were spawned from.
So, while i’ll check out this official remake to what is ultimately a cult classic (fight me), i’d suggest looking this flick up on your streaming service of choice. James Wan is making much bigger budget stuff nowadays, with the Fast & Furious, and Conjuring franchises under his belt, but the summer of 2007 was treated to his first action foray, and it was more than worthy to carry on the mantle of the Death Wish.
Have you seen Death Sentence, if so, what did you think? Worthy successor, or shallow imitator?