UK Release date: 7th May 2012
UK Distributor: High Fliers
Running Time: 100 mins
Director: Damien Lee
Starring: Cuba Gooding Jr., Lara Daans, Christian Slater, Devon Bostick, Kim Coates
Original Language: English
Reviewer: Daryl Wing
The worldwide illicit drug trade reaps over $360 billion annually. Worldwide sales for Microsoft are $58 billion annually. Christian Slater makes at least two bad movies annually. His last half-decent effort was Very Bad Things way back in 1998. Cuba Gooding Jr. starred in Jerry Maguire two years earlier, and over thirty bad movies since. Why all these facts? Sacrifice director Damien Lee (Hit It, Abraxas, Guardian of the Universe) seems to like them. He also likes to cast his son, probably one of the worst actors the World has ever seen. Is their latest collaboration worth surrendering two hours of your life?
Drug dealer Mike (Devon Bostick) wants to get out of the dangerous heroin trade, to protect himself and his five-year-old sister Angel. But he needs money to be able to disappear; so one last criminal act sees him steal a weeping statue of the Virgin Mary, made from the drug.
A tough undercover cop, John Hebron (Cuba Gooding Jr.), still grieving over the slaughtering of his family, inadvertently gets involved when the young defector is forced to leave Angel in his care.
Can John control his mood swings and put an end to his heavy drinking in order to protect the child, find those responsible for the drug ring, and take him closer to the man who killed his family?
Solid enough narratively, on paper, Damien Lee’s Sacrifice is a bit of a mess. The film largely consists of Gooding’s character feeling sorry for himself, acting a bit mental, before waking up with a massive hangover. The death of one of the main characters kick-starts the movie, but it arrives over halfway through proceedings and by that point you’ll probably be wondering why Sons of Anarchy’s Kim Coates agreed to his role as the bad guy. You’ll even question Slater’s decision to play Father Porter; his recent career choices as memorable as the line, “You’re a cop, she’ll be safe with you”, uttered by Hebron’s dead wife’s sister.
For the first hour Lee mixes low-key action scenes with unnecessary flashbacks that turn the whole affair into a plodding bore. Opening and closing with a screen full of statistics on the illicit drug trade that offers little weight to the story, crosscut with unconvincing drama and a mishmash of acting abilities, Sacrifice is underwhelming at best. The story’s main quandary should be whether Hebron will find the person that killed his family before leaving him for dead, but the script bypasses this until the final scene, leaving the door open for an unneeded sequel.
The film’s two main characters never meet, sharing just one conversation, which at times makes the plot feel like it consists of two separate episodes from a poor daytime television crime drama, with an added swear word every so often. There’s even an intriguing relationship between Gooding and Daans – playing his sister in law – that touches on a guilty did-they-didn’t-they, should-they-shouldn’t-they romance that’s completely ignored in favour of three more bottles of Jack Daniels and a “dead man” running gag that falls flat on its face. John McClane he isn’t.
Despite such stumbling, Sacrifice does occasionally achieve some worthwhile thrills. In the final act there are two welcome shootouts, especially the final offering in the church, and Lee engineers another in the bar early doors. It’s a shame he doesn’t build on such a scene quicker, and it would also help if he explained how Bostick’s character Mike managed to steal the lumbering statue and transport it to its eventual hiding place at the house of God when he clearly can’t drive and looks about as mighty as Jason Statham’s hairline.
The acting veers from fine to awful, with Lee’s son Zion (playing Rook) and Athena Karkanis delivering two of the worst performances in a long time; it certainly doesn’t encourage further exploration of Lee’s back catalogue. Both are annoying and worthy of early exits, so it’s surprising to learn that the misfiring auteur is often graced with their presence on the sets of his movies, along with Daans and, disappointingly, Coates. Still, at times Zion Lee has the ability to make the film laugh-out-loud outrageous (for all the wrong reasons), while offering one of the few crowd-pleasing moments toward the end of this lacklustre thriller.
Much of Gooding’s uptight spiel and solitary suffering – at one point he’s dancing naked in his physiatrist’s office for no other reason but to show us how crazy he is – contradicts his, for the most part, warm and likeable persona. Maybe they’re trying to replicate a character reminiscent to Martin Rigg’s of Lethal Weapon (1987) fame, without the ability to dislocate his shoulder or deliver any line remotely humorous. It doesn’t work, and neither does his friendship with Father Porter. Sketchy at best, with few hints to their backstory, one of the biggest sins is that Slater isn’t given a gun much earlier. Although his performance is acceptable, he doesn’t quite convince as a priest. But at least he can take down a couple of foes, unlike the poor antagonist who can’t shoot for toffee, from four yards.
Reasonably engaging, especially in the final third, but most of the cast are out-acted by a five-year-old with one credit to her name, and most are thankfully dispatched during some acceptable shoot-outs by the time this lacklustre thriller - riddled with redundant flashbacks and patchwork plotting - draws to a close. Director Damien Lee even dares to set up a sequel. For many, it’ll be one sacrifice too far.