A revenge thriller is a tough animal to tame. Go too far in one direction and you're practically advocating vigilante behavior -- but if you err on the safe side your drama begins to feel like a flaccid little network flick. Third-time director James Wan (Saw, Dead Silence) deserves some hearty praise for trying to balance hard-edged escapism with some surprisingly ambiguous social commentary -- even if the two approaches sometimes mix as well as oil and vinegar. But "more than half a brain" is what this dark-hued action thriller has to offer, and nowadays that's just enough to get excited about. (Had the flick been full-bore bloodthirstiness, I suspect it would have gotten really tiresome after about 25 minutes or so.)

Fortunately Mr. Wan also has Kevin Bacon in the lead role -- as an All-American dad who seeks revenge on the brutal drug gang members who murdered his son -- and if ever a genre movie hinged on a lead performance, it's Death Sentence. Bacon is able to be "the perfect dad" without being too sappy or cloying; he has no trouble creating a character who's being gradually sucked down the tubes; and once Bacon gets down to the very end of his rope -- he has no problem selling himself as a desperate shell who simply wants some justicerevenge ... ok, both.
categories Reviews, Cinematical