DEATH SENTENCE (**) - Starring Kevin Bacon, Garrett Hedlund, Kelly Preston, John Goodman, Aisha Tyler and Leigh Whannell. Directed by James Wan.
First off, I liked that they made the center of this vigilante flick a regular guy. Kevin Bacon's Nick Hume is just a suit-wearing family man who didn't ask for the violence that tumbles into his life when his son is murdered by a gang-member. I've never seen a Death Wish movie all the way through (didn't care for Charles Bronson) and I hated it when Steven Seagal made a couple movies based on the same general theme. Bacon gives a credible performance and has a generally believable arc as a guy in over his head who gets more and more inhumane as he must fight to keep the rest of his family safe.
There were also some nice touches from director James Wan (Saw). The parking garage chase scene was well done, for one, but there were also some continuous shots that pulled me out and made me admire Wan's technique more than just appreciate another level to the story. There were other times where I just had it thrown in my face this is from the guy who directed Saw. The underground hide-out where the gang spends their time was so dingy and poorly-lit, it might as well have a torture chamber in the next room.
The problem with the story is that the gang members are these generic yet ethnically diverse thugs who are cacklingly evil and deserve everything coming to them, and the cops are neutered to do anything about it. Whenever the movie focuses on the gangsters or the cops, it's boring. When John Goodman shows up as a scuzzy arms dealer, he commands the screen. But he's only in three scenes, so there it is.
The Brave One is a better vigilante film overall, though this one had the more believable ending, if you don't mind Hume getting in touch with his inner Travis Bickle before all is said and done.