Death Sentence (2007 film)

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Death Sentence
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJames Wan
Screenplay byIan Mackenzie Jeffers
Based onDeath Sentence
by Brian Garfield
Produced by
CinematographyJohn R. Leonetti
Edited byMichael N. Knue
Music byCharlie Clouser
Distributed by20th Century Fox
Release date
  • August 31, 2007 (2007-08-31)
Running time
111 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$20 million[1]
Box office$17 million[2]

Death Sentence is a 2007 American vigilante action thriller film directed by James Wan and starring Kevin Bacon as Nick Hume, a man who takes the law into his own hands after his son is murdered by a gang member as an initiation ritual; Hume must then protect his family from the gang's resulting vengeance. The film is loosely based on the 1975 novel of the same name by Brian Garfield; although the novel is a sequel to Garfield's Death Wish, the film is unconnected to the previous Death Wish film series.

Death Sentence was released by 20th Century Fox on August 31, 2007, and was released on DVD on January 8, 2008. It was a box-office bomb earning $16 million against a $20 million budget, and received negative reviews from critics, who criticized the graphic violence and plot.


Nick Hume, a businessman living in Columbia, South Carolina, watches his son Brendan's hockey game. On the way home, they stop for gas in a bad part of town. During an apparent robbery of the gas station, Joe Darley, a new gang member, slices Brendan's throat with a machete. Nick ambushes the thugs, pulls off Joe's mask and sees his face. Joe escapes, only to get hit by a car. Nick rushes Brendan to the hospital, where he dies. Lucas, Nick's younger and less charismatic son, suffers survivor guilt.

Nick identifies Joe in a police line-up but learns that Joe will only get a light sentence as there is not enough evidence for a trial. At a pre-trial hearing, Nick recants his identification and Joe goes free. Nick trails the gang to their hideout, catches Joe alone, and stabs him to death. The gang leader, Billy, wants revenge. Nick is quickly identified as the killer.

The gang ambushes Nick on the streets, leading to a tense chase inside a car park. Nick manages to evade the gang and escapes in his car, in the process causing the death of another gang member. The suitcase Nick dropped during the chase is delivered to his office, and he finds a phone number inside. When Nick calls the number, Billy answers, reveals himself as Joe's brother, and warns that Nick has brought a "death sentence" upon his family.

Nick calls Jessica Wallis, the detective assigned to Brendan's case. Aware of what Nick has started, she grants Nick's family police protection and issues APBs on Billy and his gang. That night, the gang members kill the officers protecting Nick's house. They subdue Nick, then shoot Helen and Lucas. Helen dies while Nick and Lucas are hospitalized.

After a brief talk with Jessica, Nick visits Lucas, who is in a coma. Nick apologizes for not being a better father, then escapes the hospital window. Nick buys guns from Bones, a black market gun dealer who later reveals himself as Billy's father. Nick interrogates Heco, a gang member, and learns that their lair is an abandoned mental hospital that they call "The Office." Forcing Heco to call Billy's number, Nick executes him while Billy is listening. Bones confronts Billy, who kills his father.

Nick heads to "The Office." After a shootout, he and Billy encounter and seriously wound each other in the chapel. Sitting on the same pew, Billy comments that he turned Nick into a vicious cold-blooded killer just like him. Nick pulls out his revolver and asks Billy if he's ready, as Billy sheds a tear before Nick ends his life. Nick returns home, watches his family's home movies, and awaits his inevitable arrest. Upon her arrival, Jessica informs Nick that Lucas has improved and will now live.

Alternative ending

In the extended version of the film, Nick succumbs to his injuries.




Brian Garfield, author of the original novel Death Wish, was disappointed with the 1974 film adaptation and subsequently wrote a sequel, 1975's Death Sentence. In 1980, he was hired by the Cannon Group, Inc. to write a film adaptation of Death Sentence to be helmed by the first film's director Michael Winner. However, Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus disliked the second novel and, instead, decided to purchase the rights to Garfield's characters instead of adapting the novel itself. They also purchased the rights to the first film from Dino De Laurentiis and Paramount Pictures. The subsequent film Death Wish II (1982) was strictly a sequel to the first film and bore no relation to Garfield's novel.[3] The film franchise has since gathered a cult following. After James Wan read Garfield's novels and, having seen all the film adaptions, he was inspired to make a film of the novel. Wan hired Garfield to write the first few drafts for the film, with the final script being written by Ian Mackenzie Jeffers.


Kevin Bacon was hired after James saw him as the perfect choice for the role of Nick Hume. Garrett Hedlund was chosen for the role of Billy Darley, the main leader of the gang. He was asked to shave his head and gain some weight, to which he agreed. He also watched a documentary about lions to portray Billy's animalistic nature. Aisha Tyler had been cast as the detective, Jessica Wallis. She was originally written as a 50-year-old male detective, but the choice was cancelled. Other cast members include John Goodman, Judith Roberts and Stuart Lafferty.


The film was shot in 2 months. The filming locations included, Columbia, South Carolina and Los Angeles, California.


The music was composed by Charlie Clouser, who previously collaborated with Wan on Saw (2004) and Dead Silence (2007).

Incidental music includes several bars of "Hey Joe" by Jimi Hendrix, played while Nick is stalking Joe Darley.


Box office

Death Sentence opened in 1,822 theaters in the United States and grossed $4,231,321, with an average of $2,322 per theater and ranking #8 at the box office. The film ultimately earned $9,534,258 domestically and $7,440,201 internationally for a total of $16,974,459.[2]

Critical reception

Rotten Tomatoes, a review aggregator, reports that 20% of 113 surveyed critics gave the film a positive review; the average rating was 4.20/10. The critical consensus states: "A nonsensical plot and an absurd amount of violence make this revenge pic gratuitous and overwrought."[4] The film has a score of 36 out of 100 on Metacritic based on 24 critics, indicating "Generally unfavorable reviews".[5]

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film 2+12 stars out of 4. He compared Death Sentence to the Death Wish films starring Charles Bronson, saying: "In the Bronson movies, the hero just looked more and more determined until you felt if you tapped his face, it would explode. In Death Sentence, Bacon acts out a lot more." Ebert called Death Sentence "very efficient", praising "a courtroom scene of true surprise and suspense, and some other effective moments", but concluded that "basically this is a movie about a lot of people shooting at each other".[6]

Scott Tobias of The A.V. Club contends the film is "certainly never boring"; he felt that director James Wan was "too busy jamming the accelerator to realize that his movie's spinning out of control."[7] Matt Zoller Seitz of The New York Times said, "Aside from a stunning three-minute tracking shot as the gang pursues Nick through a parking garage, and Mr. Bacon's hauntingly pale, dark-eyed visage, Mr. Wan's film is a tedious, pandering time-waster."[8] Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly felt that "[t]he morality of revenge is barely at issue in a movie that pushes the plausibility of revenge right over a cliff."[9] Conversely, Justin Chang of Variety called the film "well-made, often intensely gripping".[10] Similarly, Bill Gibron of PopMatters felt the film was "a significant movie" and "a wonderfully tight little thriller".[11] Darren Amner of Eye for Film also gave the film a positive review, praising Bacon's performance in particular: "[H]is portrayal is emotional, sympathetic and highly aggressive. As a father he is touching and as a stone-cold killing machine he is even more convincing."[12]

Author Brian Garfield, who wrote the novel the film is loosely based on, said of the film: "While I could have done with a bit less blood-and-thunder, I think it's a stunningly good movie. In the details of its story it's quite different from the novel, but it's a movie, not a novel. In its cinematic way it connects with its audience and it makes the same point the book makes, and those are the things that count." He also liked that, like his novels, but unlike the Death Wish film series, it does not advocate vigilantism.[13] Garfield further explained in an interview: "I think that, except for its ludicrous violence toward the end, the Death Sentence movie does depict its character's decline and the stupidity of vengeful vigilantism," adding, "As a story it made the point I wanted it to make."[14]


  1. ^ "Death Sentence". The Numbers. Retrieved January 14, 2014.
  2. ^ a b "Death Sentence". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved January 14, 2014.
  3. ^ "Death Sentence". Retrieved November 29, 2023.
  4. ^ "Death Sentence – Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved March 9, 2021.
  5. ^ "Death Sentence (2007): Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved September 14, 2007.
  6. ^ Roger Ebert (August 31, 2007). "Reviews – Death Sentence". Chicago Sun-Times. Archived from the original on July 22, 2012. Retrieved September 14, 2007.
  7. ^ Death Sentence – Film Scott Tobias, The A.V. Club, August 30, 2007
  8. ^ Movie Review – Death Sentence Matt Zoller Seitz, The New York Times, August 30, 2007
  9. ^ Death Sentence – Movie Review Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly, September 5, 2007
  10. ^ Death Sentence Review Justin Chang, Variety, August 30, 2007
  11. ^ Short Cuts – In Theaters: Death Sentence (2007) – Short Ends and Leader Bill Gibron, PopMatters, 2007
  12. ^ Death Sentence Movie Review (2007) Darren Amner, Eye for Film, 2007
  13. ^ Retrieved 2007-09-14
  14. ^ Historian: Interview with Brian Garfield Nikki Tranter, PopMatters, March 5, 2008

External links