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Even if you are a fan of Chris Penn and J T Walsh, "Sacred Cargo" is one to skip for certain. This muddled mess of a movie is something about stolen religious artifacts. Walsh sports a ridiculous Russian accent, Martin Sheen is hidden away for most of the film, while his brother, Chris Penn gets involved in some unbelievable circumstances trying to find him. The movie has zero credibility, poor stunt work, a contrived whirlwind romance, and extraordinary nonsense throughout. My favorite line has to be as Chris Penn and J T Walsh are enjoying a beer in a town square, Walsh quips "Nothing like a cold beer on a hot day." Of course they are both wearing Winter overcoats. - MERK
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Vince Kanevsky (Penn) is an all-American dude who likes to drink,
gamble and get into the occasional barfight. His brother could not be
more different - he's Father Andrew Kanevsky (Sheen), a priest with a
kindly nature. When Andrew hears that back in the "old country", St.
Petersburg, Russia, a neo-Nazi group is terrorizing Catholics, he and
Vince go there to see if they can help. Once in Russia, the intrigue
begins as Andrew is kidnapped by the evil Oleg (Yatsko) and Vince, now
a fish out of water in this strange land, must fend for himself and get
to the truth. Once meeting up with mysterious monk Father Stanislav
(Walsh), he realizes that the "sacred cargo" we've heard so much about
is hundreds of millions of dollars of stolen jewels and "icons". With
the help of Sasha (Karin), Vince winds his way through all the twists
and turns to help save his brother, the stolen loot, and the Catholic
The casting of Chris Penn and Martin Sheen as brothers is very weird. Sure, they're "the original odd couple", but Sheen's presence in the film is minimal. Sacred Cargo, as a whole, could have used more Sheen, but Chris Penn barely saves the movie with his "everyman" presence and good acting. He's an action star we can all relate to - he's not the best looking guy, he's a little pudgy, and he doesn't always perfectly execute his fighting moves, but he's heroic and gets the girl, even if, naturally, he seems a little confused.
It seems most people are not aware that this movie exists, even though it features Martin Sheen. Chris Penn shows his range somewhat here, in an atypical action-based role. But the film, with its religious themes, serious, dour tone and bleak cinematography, is closer to a drama/thriller with some action elements.
And we can't forget about J.T. Walsh, who brings his menacing acting chops wherever he goes. The three leads are fine in the acting department...others in the film not so much. The first half of the film especially shows its low-budget roots, but once the plot kicks in while everyone is in Russia, the streets and architecture there give the film some good production value.
Featuring not one, but FOUR songs by Gorky Park - "Bang" is not one of them but the super-catchy "Moscow Calling" is - Sacred Cargo is certainly not a bad movie, but it can best be described as an oddity on the filmography of everyone involved.
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This film is absolutely appalling and I do not know how someone can
honestly give it any praise at all. Admittedly, the opening scene leads
you to think this might be an all-out action thriller because you see a
load of guys with combat gear in the back of a van (as I remember), but
after that, you realise that the acting is completely beyond belief.
What the hell is Martin Shean doing in this film? His performance just about passes as acceptable but amidst such dreadful support (and his role is only supporting anyway), he is swamped and overwhelmed by the huge pauses in the dialogue and unprofessional stunts that make this shocker top of list for the "films we must make an effort to avoid should they ever surface onto TV" (although NO network worth its salt would even DREAM of airing this).
PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE do NOT think that the plot is complicated - it is wafer thin, you know who the bad guys are, and you know exactly how the good guys are gonna sort it out.
Examples of dialogue that doesn't work: "The KGB? (pause for 1.5 seconds) "**** the KBG" <--- meant to sound menacing, but the elongated pause destroys it.
In short: predictable, diabolical acting, dodgy production and screenplay lend themselves to the creation of a shocker.
Even shorter: rubbish
Set in modern Russia, the neo-Nazis, a Catholic monastery, and an American
or two get embroiled in attempting to smuggle valuable
The plot is extremely complicated and difficult to follow unless you concentrate. But it's worth concentrating, because its many twists and turns keep up a good level of suspense.
Martin Sheen is only a supporting actor, and the action is led by Chris Penn, who seems a little too cherubic for his character.
The setting is bleak: clearly the Russia where it takes place is lawless and dangerous. Improvisation, courage, and ingenuity are needed to survive.
It's a taut, exciting story, although there are a couple of leaps in the plot which demand a certain suspension of disbelief, but they're quickly forgotten.
Good, competent story-telling makes a good 90 minutes.
This could have been a great movie, instead it comes across as a film school project. Even Martin Sheen can't salvage it. A larger budget, better night writers to clean up the script, and a director without a singularly, romantic heart might have helped also. I fully expect this movie to be remade someday, with a greater ambition of more bang for the buck. At least I hope so. It's not a bad film, just a B movie with all of the right things wrong with it
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