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If you’re one of the few individuals who suffered through director Tibor Takács’ excruciatingly painful 2009 effort “Lies and Illusions”, then I’m sure you’re wondering, “Why in the hell would I even be remotely interested in watching yet another direct-to-video thriller starring Cuba Gooding Jr. and Christian Slater?” To be perfectly honest, I can’t blame you. “Lies and Illusions” was a particularly awful STV suspense yarn, even by Cuba’s lowly standards. And while I can’t say that writer/director Damian Lee’s 2011 action/drama “Sacrifice” is any worse than the pair’s previous endeavor, it’s certainly not any stronger. Although Slater has been involved in much better productions as of late, this is pretty much par for the course for Mr. Gooding, whose cinematic stock just seems to keep plummeting deeper and deeper into the mire. It’s a damn shame.
Gooding stars as John Hebron, a cop who’s recently been dealt a serious emotional blow. In an unspeakably brutal act of vengeance, Hebron’s wife and daughter are savagely murdered by a villainous felon he put in prison. Not surprisingly, this tragic event has destroyed nearly every aspect of the cop’s entire existence, including the ability to take down criminals without breaking all the rules. However, his skills will be put to the ultimate test when a teenage drug dealer is murdered by the head of a local cartel (Kim Coates) inside a Catholic church. Left in the aftermath of this heinous crime is the dealer’s five year-old sister, who has nowhere left to go. Not one to leave little kids twiddling their thumbs on the mean streets of Toronto, Hebron takes in the tyke, his cold, dead heart begins to beat again, and they all live happily ever after.
Wrong! The cartel kidnaps the dead drug pusher’s sister in hopes of finding a statue of the Virgin Mary made completely out of heroin, an item which her brother once held in his possession. Hebron, of course, isn’t going to take this sort of nonsense lying down. In order to effectively crush the opposition, rescue the little girl, and get his life back on track, our hero enlists the help of Father Porter (Christian Slater), a soft-spoken priest who’s attempting to make peace with his past. Before he was a man of the cloth, Porter was executing covert operations in Iraq, and his soul is a little wonky because of it. Although he’s reluctant to fall back his deadly set of skills and abilities, the priest eventually agrees to help Hebron on his mission to reduce crime to a bloody pulp. And if they have time, they’ll save a life or two along the way.
My synopsis has been purposely jazzed up. “Sacrifice”, despite the smattering of action sprinkled throughout its second half, is hopelessly dull; checking the clock on the DVD player is never a good sign, especially when you’re dealing with a supposed “action/thriller”. If melodrama is your thing, there’s plenty to be had, as Damien Lee never passes up a chance to show just how much that little girl is warming Hebron’s big ol’ crime-bustin’ heart. The picture is beyond drab, and, had Lee opted to remove all of the violent content, could easily pass as something you’d find on the likes of Oxygen and Lifetime. Not that there’s anything wrong with the movies they show those cable networks, mind you, but when you’re expecting something a bit more action-packed, you can’t help but feel a little ripped off. A few helpings of low-budget action cannot overshadow the long stretches of boredom you’re forced to sit through. And when I say long stretches, I mean very long stretches of boredom. Bring a book, a Kindle, or, better yet, another movie.
“Sacrifice” is not a good film, although I think it really wants to be. Sorry about your luck, kiddo. Better luck next time. So unimpressed was I by this cinematic milquetoast that I’m actually a little wary of Gooding’s “The Hit List”, yet another direct-to-video opus destined to collect dust in Netflix distribution warehouses. On the plus side, Kim Coates can be seen doing his thing, and you’ve got the big brother from “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” trying to act like a badass, but that’s really about all the film has to offer. Shame on Damien Lee for wasting Christian Slater as a former special ops solider-turned-Catholic priest. That should have been a movie all on its own. Unfortunately, there’s nothing to recommend to those who don’t mind watching middle-of-the-road thrillers starring actors who should know better. I’m assuming these people are out there somewhere. After all, they only make movies like “Sacrifice” if someone out there is paying to watch them.
Damien Lee (director) / Damien Lee (screenplay)
CAST: Cuba Gooding Jr. … John Hebron
Lara Daans … Jade
Christian Slater … Father Porter
Kim Coates … Arment
Devon Bostick … Mike
Arcadia Kendal … Angel