STUDIO: Millennium Films
MSRP: $29.98
RUNNING TIME: 97 minutes
• Behind the Scenes Featurette
• Previews!

The Pitch

Man of Honor on Fire. Christian Slater as a priest. SOLD!

The Humans

Starring Cuba Gooding Jr., Christian Slater, Kim Coates, Lara Daans, Devon Bostick
Written and directed by Damian Lee

The Nutshell

An alcoholic cop (Gooding Jr.) ends up racing against time to save a kid (Bostick) and his sister from a drug dealer (Daans) and a crime lord (Coates) after a Virgin Mary statue made out of heroin gets stolen and ends up at church by a not-so-faithful priest (Slater).

“Dude, no way am I doing Boat Trip 2. Seriously man, you couldn’t pay me enough. I have way too much self-respect- wait, how much did you just say? Okay, I’m up, I’m up.”

The Lowdown

You’d think that casting Christian Slater as a priest would automatically take a movie that could be a throwaway genre flick into something worth seeing simply for the schlock value, the brilliant casting move of Kuffs as a man of the cloth enough to provide for ample entertainment with a few friends ready for stock story lines, gratuitous violence, and stunt coordinators over-acting as villains. Toss in Cuba Gooding Jr. and Kim Coates and you’ve got yourself a solid cast for some straight-to-home fun.

Sadly the sum of the parts don’t quite add up in veteran filmmaker Damian Lee’s heavy-handed, weakly scripted cautionary tale against the war on drugs. Which is too bad because having a crime actioner based mainly on the costly human collateral rather than glorifying the whole failed endeavor is a breath of fresh air in the genre. “A” for effort and message, for sure. But, right out of the gate, we’re greeted with bland titles giving us raw stats about how many people are dying as a result of the drug war and how much of the illicit meds make it across the borders from both Mexico and Canada, sometimes smuggled in religious artifacts. All the while we hear slightly inaudible voiceover during a long, ominous shot of a big, empty house at night and of John (Gooding Jr.) slumped over in his truck, in emotional agony, as the narration informs us that apparently his family was one of those unfortunate statistics. A good message does not always a good film make.

Black face = not at all cool. Black/white face = “No, it’s cool, I have friends who are black.”

All of this takes a rather long time before it segues into intercutting scenes of a cop at a crime scene, John driving, and a hockey game, the culmination of which embodies just how close this came to being 90 minutes of pure absurd entertainment: after pulling an Axel Foley circa 1984, John digs his knife into a baggie full of white powder and licks it, smirking as it’s clear that he knows it sure ain’t sugar, only to not bother making sure that the bad guy had actually left the locker room (John just knows where the bad guys are gonna be) so he gets clubbed in the back of the head and drops like a sack of heroin to the ground where the bad guy leaves him alive and breathing for whatever reason, but somehow John must’ve told the other cops who were at some entirely separate crime scene because when John comes to some time later, he runs after the bad guy only to find that he’s been surrounded by the entire police force while he’s holding a poor Zamboni driver hostage with a knife to his throat. Showcasing a trait that never, ever comes into play again, John appears out of nowhere, skating like Apolo Anton Ohno in a roid rage across the vast expanse of smooth ice, form-tackling the bad guy to the ground as the rest of his law enforcement compatriots look on in awe and envy and humility. Only this isn’t enough: John proceeds to beat the piss out the bad guy who keeps yelling to the other cops “get him off of me!” instead of bothering to fight back.

Hey, even priests have vices. Just be grateful this one’s is only pederasty.

The major downfall of it: it’s all played totally straight, like perhaps everyone watching this had never lived through the likes of its ’80s and ’90s kin. And that’s all within the first few minutes, before we’re even graced with the raw presence of Father Slater who, no joke, used to be a special forces operative fighting in Afghanistan not long ago, and then decided to devote his life to the Lord because it seemed like the hardest thing he could possibly do.

Sacrifice handles a couple narrative threads, focusing mainly on this young kid Mike (Bostick) who wants to get out of his current gig dealing drugs for Jade (Daans), a club owner, but learns the hard way that once you’ve settled for a life of crime, there’s no escaping it. Mike’s an orphan along with his little sister, Angel, whom he takes care of when he’s not cutting lines in the bathroom. But his real mistake is when he steals a Virgin statue made out of pure heroin from a fellow young drug dealer named Rook (Lee), who would be hard-pressed to win the role of theater usher for the Allentown YMCA Community Acting Troupe, which means that everyone’s after him, including our favorite speed skater, John, who makes time for needy youths when not waking up in his own liquor-flavored sputum. Again, on the surface, this is all good for a stock actioner, except there are just too many of those character moments that get forced into being in order to fit the not-too-imaginative plot that make you just roll your eyes.

“Why do I even fucking bother!?” – guy who makes signs for doors that say “Exit Only.”

For instance, while on the lam hiding from the ruthless Jade and her henchman, Gary Diamond (Morrison, who was also the stunt coordinator), Mike throws his sister’s prized possession – her stuffed animal – into the hotel room as they flee to safety only to moments later have Angel realize that she doesn’t have her cotton companion, meaning instead of telling her that he’ll get her a new one, of course, Mike literally runs back to the room to get it only to hang out nonchalantly and talk on the phone to John – whom he’s never met once – about his entire life story with zero sense of urgency that maybe, just maybe Jade and Co. could be closing in on him to inflict serious bodily harm upon him. Which they do.

Shortly after this, the movie goes all Men of Honor on Fire with John taking out all the baddies in order to save the little girl, Angel. This brings us to the ultimate showdown of good and evil that involves the mother of God made out of heroin, a gun-wielding priest, and a decidedly un-Kill Bill-esque firefight in a church that should’ve been way more gratuitous than it was. I mean, this is the total payoff for even bothering to pick up this movie whose case proudly shows Cuba and Christian, cop and priest, law and Law, guns and, well, guns, teamed up to do some serious ass-whipping. Sure, the elements of what you’d want to see end up on screen, but like the rest of it, there’s just no energy in the terribly staged fight scenes replete with CG blood and poor camera work. Thankfully, though, it had one amazing line delivered by the always-entertaining-need-to-see-him-on-screen-more Kim Coates: “I will put a bullet in this motherfucking priest!” that nearly made it all worthwhile. Nearly.

One of the perks of being on the force: freebies.

Throw in some absolute ridiculousness where John manages to somehow get custody of the little girl despite there likely being more rules in place for what cops should do when dealing with an orphan in a criminal situation than good roles Gooding Jr. passed over after his Oscar win — I can’t imagine any of those rules involve John taking the girl home but then leaving her in the care of a daycare teacher while he goes off to buy groceries while the local crime syndicate is searching for her — and you have all the elements for a laughable riot of an over-the-top exercise in direct-to-video delight. As presented, though, the only part of that description that remains is the “direct-to-video” part and maybe half of the “over-the-top.” Not remotely enough to send this one from bad to so-bad-it’s-good.

I get that he hasn’t eaten much lately that didn’t come out of a bottle, but who puts four slices of bread on a plate and then puts that plate in the fridge next to a plastic jar of cereal at any point in time? Honestly.

The Package

The image of the film itself is rather flat and dull, the low-budget cinematography nothing to write home about. Surprisingly enough, though, is the Behind the Scenes Featurette that was rather entertaining — instead of just having the traditional interviews with the director and star explaining how it all came about, the documentarians venture throughout the set talking to different departments and finding out their contributions to the film. Nice to see some love given to the Art Department, not just about putting blood on the actors’ during the fight scenes, but also how they turned a warehouse stage into multiple rooms for various scenes.


Out of a Possible 5 Stars