Bacon Goes Ballistic

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In today's episode of Not Screened at Press Time Theater: the Kevin Bacon revenge shocker Death Sentence. More after the jump. There's no degree of separation between risk-assessment executive Kevin Bacon and the gangbangers who killed his son in the first of this season's you-toucha-my-family-I-keel-you thumbscrewers, a gory anti-revengers' tale seemingly resurrected from the catacombs of Cannon Films. (It's based on a novel by Brian Garfield, reportedly written to counteract the pro-vigilante slant Hollywood gave his Death Wish.)

The director, Sawteur James Wan, lays the genre mechanism bare: innocents will be placed in harm's way; the hero will retaliate and become no better than the bad guys, until the bad guys do something even more heinous. And we, with a combination of sympathy and bloodlust, respond with lizard-brain predictability to each new zap. Or we would, if the movie weren't so laughable in every common-sense detail—starting with Bacon's instant transformation from pencil pusher to demolition man. It helps that the gang accepts only pistol-packing Mr. Magoos who couldn't hit Texas with Oklahoma. These numbnuts target the hero with the kind of flagrantly bad marksmanship that made Mark Twain plug James Fenimore Cooper.

A motif of father-son eye-for-an-eye overkill and some choice talk about the futility of war from an otherwise ineffectual detective (Aisha Tyler) raise the possibility that this is some kind of au-courant post-9/11 allegory. But the only things anyone's likely to remember, besides Bacon's cadaverous Travis Bickle crazy-eyes act, are John Goodman's soon-to-be-legendary turn as a bilious bug-eyed gun dealer and a hellacious back-alley/parking-garage chase shot from a careening fender-level camera. Like much of the movie, it's as hammily dynamic as it is impossible to swallow.

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