Sacrifice (2011) - Can't Stop the Movies
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Sacrifice (2011)

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Andrew DISLIKEI'll give Sacrifice this much, for all it's heavy-handed attempts at setting up a grand sacrifice it's kind of amazing that it would chuck all of that hard work to the cellulose wind and cop-out with a spectacularly off-tone ending.

Another sad portent is that it stars Cuba Gooding Jr.  There was a time, and for some younger folks this may be beyond their memory, but Cuba had the soft intensity of a family-friendly Nicholas Cage.  This was great when the real Nicholas Cage was off making family films and neutered himself so heavily that we needed someone to fill the void.  So Cuba stepped up to the plate, shucked some of the subtlety that he evoked in Boyz n the Hood, ramped himself up for Jerry Maguire and won an Oscar.

Unfortunately, instead of picking roles that utilized his weirdness or were at least strangely experimental, Cuba went the exact opposite direction.  So the films he stars he have little to no subtlety (Radio), are downright offensive (Boat Trip) or are sadly obvious in his attempts at getting away from the squeaky clean energetic optimism of his role in Jerry Maguire.  Sacrifice is just another step on the long road of failure for Cuba.

Not that it's much of a success for anyone else involved either.  Cuba stars as John Hebron and the film sets this characters demeanor right off the bat with a shot of him weeping over a bottle of Jack Daniels, gun in hand, while the soundtrack plays back reminders of a man shouting "You knew the risks!" and a woman shouting "I can't handle this anymore!"  In another time, someone might have recognized the ingredients of a noir and asked questions about this man's psyche without resulting to an intrusive collection of voice-overs.

This is some grade-A casting.

Sadly, my hopes that someone would have seen this are utterly dashed to pieces over the remaining hour and twenty minutes.  John is a narcotics officer who gets involved with a drug cartel with the spineless Mike (Devon Bostck, fresh from the Wimpy Kid movies, and horribly cast), who is trying to figure out some way of getting out alive with his little sister.  John's investigation and Mike's plotting intersect occasionally at a church run by Father Porter played by Christian Slater.  Since Slater's output in the last few years has been about as inspiring as Cuba's it feels like there should be another joke there.  Instead there's just the consistently blank stare of Slater, who seems unwilling or unable (it's difficult to tell) to try and infuse any sort of meaning into the priest.

The church intersection plays heavily into the title cards that are flashed to us every so often.  Two helpful hints at the beginning come in the form of a figure that says the drug cartels make roughly six times as much as Microsoft and that sometimes the members of those cartels will put those drugs into religious iconography.  So those aren't hints so much as telling you what the plot is going to be and those tidbits are there to hold our hands as if writer/director Damian Lee is afraid we'll lose interest.

Sad to say, he didn't even need to do that.  Sacrifice throws just about every cliche in the tortured detective handbook at the screen and doesn't try inventing any others.  There's the out of control henchman, the corruption of the system, the innocent daughter that just needs daddy to come home, and the endless voice-overs repeating everything again and again.

Ah yeah, the tasteful and absolutely necessary Voodoo scene.

There are two things that I liked about Sacrifice.  The first is Lara Daans' performance.  She plays a mob boss with vaguely incestuous relationship with Mike that could have been interesting far removed from the voice-overs and given a bit more subtext to work with.  The second moment is early on when John gets knocked out by a drug runner and chases him onto a hockey rink.  Echoes of Sudden Death rolled into my head as he dons some ice skates and manages to sneak skate up to the runner and take him out.  Maybe if the film didn't take itself so seriously it could have been some kind of fun.

Is there some kind of commentary to be had here?  Just the fact that depressed psychopaths get to hang out in the judicial system as it's enforcers and kill scott-free (which we've known since Dirty Harry and is far better presented in the TV series Justified).  Cuba's not entirely to blame, he does what he can, but the next time a writer/director approaches him about a beaten down cop I hope he asks if he gets to tackle someone more than once.

It won him an Oscar last time ya know.

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Sacrifice (2011)

Written and directed by Damian Lee.
Starring Cuba Gooding Jr. and Christian Slater.

Posted by Andrew

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