Review of Sacrifice


Movie Review: "Sacrifice"

-- Rating: R (some violent content)
Length: 100 minutes
Release Date: April 26, 2011
Directed by: Damian Lee
Genre: Action/Drama/Thriller

In "Sacrifice," Academy Award Winner Cuba Gooding, Jr. stars as John Hebron, a cop with a long laundry list of criminals who he has put behind bars. As is the risk with any good cop with his resume, one of those criminals may one day seek revenge. That is exactly what happens here, as Hebron's wife and child are savagely murdered.

Tragedy changes a person, and change is exactly what happens to Hebron after he buries his family. Before the brutal murders, he was a by-the-book type of cop who always did the right thing, not because it was the rules but because it was the right thing to do. Now he is broken, and he will bend or completely break the law in order to make arrests. Even though he was wildly successful by following procedure before, his broken heart blinds him to the danger of the ethically sketchy territory he is now encountering.

Hebron has been working on a case to bring down a local Toronto drug cartel, of which Mike (Devon Bostck) is a part. He realizes the error of his ways in joining the ranks of the cartel thugs and desperately wants to get out. He occasionally visits a Catholic Church run by Father Porter (Christian Slater). Hebron visits the church as well, though not to worship or congregate. Instead, he begins milking Mike for information about the cartel, which is run by the ruthless Arment (Kim Coates).

Mike gets the plot rolling by stealing a statue of the Virgin Mary that is made out of heroin, which he then puts into Father Porter's church. It is worth a lot of money, so Arment quickly realizes that it is missing. When he finds out who did it, he sends his henchmen to go kill Mike, leaving behind his young sister Angel (Arcadia Kendal) without a caretaker.

Hebron decides to temporarily take in Angel because he misses his own daughter, despite the fact that he has now become a raging alcoholic who even drinks in church. Here, the script by Damian Lee, who also directed, takes a very different turn. Instead of the action and murder, it takes a heartwarming slant as young Angel, who is grieving herself over the loss of her brother, helps to heal Hebron's still-grieving heart.

These are two disparately different people who are both very broken. Yet somehow, the child is the one who seems to be taking it better. There are even scenes where Angel seems to almost be the most adult person in the room. The old saying that children are resilient rings very true here.

Just as Hebron begins to quit drinking and taking a new lease on life, Angel is kidnapped by Arment, who is holding her hostage until he gets his heroin statue back. This sends Hebron into desperation mode, giving him something other than the bottom of a bottle of alcohol to focus on. He knows Mike and Angel attended services at Father Porter's church, so he goes there to see if he can get any new information to help his endeavor.

Father Porter is a broken man as well. Before joining the priesthood, he was a soldier in the armed forces, serving in Iraq. He was a part of a group that fell victim to a bomb, with him being the sole survivor. He feels an immense amount of guilt over this, leading him to wonder why it was him who survived instead of others. He becomes a priest to try and find meaning in his life, but he is mostly an empty shell. He realizes that helping Hebron find Angel could be the reason he was spared.

From here, the action in "Sacrifice" is amped way up as Hebron and Father Porter begin an increasingly chaotic chase to try and find Arment and save Angel. Director Lee does the most with his small budget to make the action fast and believable. He does a great job with his actors, too. Coates in particular turns in a great performance as Arment, who is equally smart and ruthless.

The last time the two main actors worked together, a 2009 film called "Lies and Illusions," the result was a bit muddled. With "Sacrifice," these two actors prove they can really work together when they have better material to draw from. The film doesn't break any new ground, but it doesn't have to, because it packs an emotional punch that will remind you why Gooding won his Oscar.

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars