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An ex-Navy commando (Mark Dacscos) is framed for a bungled mission to save hostages from terrorists in which he survived being shot 7 times by an assassin (Tony Todd). Years later, he is hired to protect a weapons distributor and his wife, only to have the same assassin kill them. This sets him on a mission with the assigned FBI agent (Carrie Anne Moss) to bring the killers and conspirators to justice. Graham Greene appears as Dacasco's former commander. Written by
John Sacksteder <Jsack@ka.net>
Sabotage is really what you could call a surprise package. On the one had it is an low budget action film starring martial arts star Mark Dacascos, which may suggest the film will be hollow, brainless and lacking in genuine class. However the film is a surprisingly entertaining and stylish piece of cinema that betters many thrillers released by big studios. The performances are first rate and the character interactions are good with some great dialogue.
The plot is an intentionally convoluted one which unravels as the movie progresses. There are conspiracies, dodgy agency folk and assassinations. The whole thing is regularly referred to as a metaphorical game of Chess (In fact the two lead characters have the surnames Bishop and Castle!). We open with a flashback set in Bosnia 1993, during a failed mission to rescue political hostages, when a third party comes in and kills allied troops, including Michael Bishop (Mark Dacascos). The third party was a former colleague of Bishops, named Sherwood, played superbly by Tony Todd. Bishop is left with 7 bullets holes in his chest thanks to Sherwood and left for dead. As it happens though a few years later he is still alive and now working as a bodyguard, but his client is killed under his nose and he must track down who did it. Bishop could leave it alone but out of duty he wants to find the killer but as he unravels the plot he finds that the situation now is linked with his mission in Bosnia. The plot has depth and keeps you guessing while there are plenty of twists. The final twist is excellent (you could call it: Bishop takes Queen, check mate!). It isn't merely the plot that has clever touches but the methodical way in which Bishops thinks. The film makers make darn sure this guy looks like someone who has intelligence training. He gets out of situations and solves situations using his head, not just flying in there feet first as you'd expect a martial arts star in an action movie to do. Great parts include Bishop setting up a censor outside of his motel room using a lamp, and his use of a fridge at the end is also very good. The film is littered with nice touches that give it a depth that you don't expect.
The cast are excellent. Really and truly in the main roles there is not a weak link. Mark Dacascos is good here. He has always had more humanity and acting ability than a lot of his action man peers and he is good here, playing the methodical Bishop. His relationship and chemistry with Carrie Ann Moss (Castle) is a big part of the movies success. They initially have friction as he is a chief suspect, but as the plot unravels they work together and form a bond that doesn't go into the B-movie cliché of becoming immediately sexual for the sake of some T&A. Carrie Ann Moss is also very good in her role, balancing loving mother with ambitious FBI career woman very well, before turning into a bad ass at the end. Then there is Tony Todd who is excellent as the villain. They managed to get someone in to play Sherwood with some charisma. If Sherwood wasn't menacing and wasn't played right this would have suffered. Similar to Bishop, Sherwood is highly intelligent and is given the intellectual high ground over all his cohorts (as he says 'f**cking amateurs!). Finally the is good support from James Purcell and also some real class from John Neville and Oscar nominated Graham Greene, two highly respected actors. There is a real classiness to the central cast that warrants this film more accolade than it has. This really had the quality to be released theatrically.
The direction by Tibor Takacs is stylish and although he goes overboard at times he keeps proceedings moving along nicely and there are some good action scenes. The action is strong here but there is now big stand out scene, obviously due to budgetary constraints. The film opens with two consecutive action sequences and the airport hit is very good. Really they needed an extended action scene in there somewhere, rather than just short bursts. The rather blandish and cold cinematography actually works well for this film, giving some atmosphere and that combines well with Guy Zefara's low key and ambient score. He knows the limitations of doing a Synthesizer score and doesn't try an recreate a full orchestra. Rather he create a subtle score that keeps the atmosphere going and uses an effective percussive style for the action.
Overall this is an accomplished little film. Its not original by any means but gives some depth to its material and although it lacks a strong finish it is certainly a film that demands viewing. ***1/2
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