Channel 5: Monday 11 May, 10.55pm
Corner-office insurance executive Kevin Bacon is Mr Nice Guy, with a hard-working wife and 2.5 polite children in suburbia. A long time is spent showing us just how ordinary and decent this family is. But bad things happen to good people, too, right? Unbelievably bad things. The kind of things that so irked Charles Bronson in Death Wish. No surprise, then, that this film is based on another book by Death Wish author Brian Garfield. Preying on middle-class fears of the underclass, vigilante stories like Death Wish (and Death Sentence is very much a story like Death Wish) pander to base instincts. They work on an entirely different level to horror films, which are stories of mystery of imagination. Fairy tales, if you like. Death Sentence is just grim, and barely a single scene is credible. The thinking man’s Death Wish would be Taxi Driver, which turned the tragedy into black comedy. The Brave One, a remarkably similar melodrama released around the same time as Death Sentence, also transcended the genre by the sheer will of Jodie Foster’s performance and the deep ambiguities in her character. Kevin Bacon’s vengeful dad is just a slimmed-down version of Bronson (the reel one, not the British fake), proving his manhood through murder in a comic-book landscape in which garishly tattooed thugs terrorise the city streets with impunity (the cops are knucklesheads, too). There’s no meat on this story – it’s all bone and gristle. In going for bleak it manages only bluster.