“Death Sentence,” review by Susan Granger

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On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Death Sentence” is a gritty, dismal 1 – as in one of the worst movies of the year.

September must be ‘payback’ month. In this overwrought revenge thriller, a mild-mannered, hard-working insurance adjuster, Nick Hume (Kevin Bacon) with a loving wife (Kelly Preston) and two sons, Brendan (Stuart Lafferty) and Lucas (Jordan Garrett), seeks vengeance for a heartbreaking crime.

It all begins as Nick and teenage Brendan make a late-night stop after a hockey game at a gas station/mini-market, where some tattooed thugs blast the store clerk with a shotgun and – in a gang initiation ritual – one punk, Joe (Matthew O’Leary), attacks and kills Brendan with a machete.

Although Joe is arrested, the prosecutor offers a plea deal of only three to five years in prison. Furious that Joe won’t do hard time, Nick refuses to testify and takes justice into his own hands, stalking Joe and stabbing him to death. Problem is: Joe’s older brother, the gang leader Billy (Garrett Hedlund) declares that Nick has just “bought…a death sentence” for his all-too-vulnerable family.

In supporting roles, Aisha Taylor is the lone ‘voice-of-conscience’ detective, while John Goodman chews the scenery as a weapons dealer with paternal gangland ties.

Screenwriter Ian Mackenzie Jeffers loosely adapts Brian Garfield’s sequel to “Death Wish” which is directed by torture-master James Wan (the “Saw” trio). Despite one impressively photographed chase sequence atop a parking garage – credit the shaky cinematography of John R. Leonetti – it’s exploitive and overwrought with extreme violence, bound to turn off all but the most excessively blood-thirsty movie-goers. And its conclusion is an unabashed rip-off of Travis Bickle’s shaved head and blown-off fingers in “Taxi Driver,” punctuated by the hardcore, heavy-handed soundtrack and score.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.