In a suspenseful new film, Kevin Bacon plays a father who loses a child to senseless violence; but the quest for vengeance threatens to turn him into something even more dangerous than his son's killer. Alan Silverman has a look at the thriller Death Sentence.
A late night stop at a run-down gas station puts them in the wrong place at the wrong time. When gang members storm in to rob the cash register they kill the teenager waiting to pay for his soft drink while his father, in shock, watches helplessly from the other side of the window. Outwardly Nick's response to the grief of burying his child is to bury himself in his work.
But inside his rage is boiling over. This peaceful man buys a gun, tracks down his son's murderer and takes a life for a life.
Kevin Bacon stars as the bereaved father who becomes obsessed with revenge. A father of two children in real life he says the film role forced him to think about the unthinkable: every parents' worst nightmare.
"You have to tap into it," explains Bacon. "My motto is 'use yourself and lose yourself.' I'm nothing like that guy and hopefully I'll never have an experience like that; so I can lose myself in that character ...but then I also have to use myself. I have to use my relationship with my children and the depth of feeling that I have for them. When you are tapping into that on a daily basis it is difficult. I'm pretty good at leaving my work at the office, but it is the knowing on Friday night that you have to go back down in there on Monday that, sometimes, can take a heavy toll. The stress that you see on my face in the movie is not all makeup.
Kelly Preston co-stars as Nick's wife and she says her character deals with the grief in a much more internal - and less deadly - fashion.
"My character doesn't realize what is happening to her husband, doesn't sense or perceive that it is going on," says Preston. "She shuts down and becomes almost removed and goes into a bit of a disconnect."
Aisha Tyler plays the police homicide detective who, as the body count rises, suspects the father has taken the law into his own hands.
"She is really conflicted because she really feels for what was going through," explains Tyler. "He has lost a family member incredibly violently. It is a terrible thing that has happened to this guy. At the same time she is sworn to uphold the law and that conflict - that push and pull - between what she feels is right and doing what she knows is right is the same conflict that the audience is feeling when they are watching the movie, which is 'I understand why this guy is doing what he is doing, I understand that impulse, but at the same time it is clearly wrong. My character has this line 'everybody thinks they are right in a war and everybody still dies.' The movie is really saying 'violence will solve nothing.' Not only that, but it will escalate to the point where you can n-o-t extract yourself from the situation that you created."
Bacon adds that understanding the character's choice to answer violence with violence is not the same as condoning it.
"My character says a line: 'you don't know what you'd do until you're in this kind of a situation.' I think that part of it is true; but I think that if we were to make a movie where at the very end of the film I was standing up tall and the music swelled and there was a flag flying in the background and it was kind of a 'rah-rah' thing ...I think there would be a certain level of irresponsibility in terms of that," Bacon says. "It feels to me like this guy makes a terrible, terrible choice. It's a fatal mistake. You see him at the end of the movie and almost everything that he loves and cares for is gone ...and it is really his fault. I think you see that there is a tremendous price that he pays."
Death Sentence also features Garrett Hedlund as the leader of the murderous gang of thugs. John Goodman is a sleazy gun dealer who provides weapons to both sides in this war of street vengeance. The film is directed by James Wan, the Australian film-maker famous for the 2004 horror hit Saw. The Death Sentence screenplay is by Ian Mackenzie Jeffers and is based on the same novel that inspired the Charles Bronson Death Wish series of revenge dramas in the 1970's.