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Sacrifice (2000)
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by Jack Sommersby

"About as Tantalizing as a Cold Latrine"
2 stars

Best to put in that "Se7en" DVD for the umpteenth time instead.

In the middling serial-killer thriller Sacrifice, the talented Michael Madsen disappointingly gives another of his run-of-the-mill, lazy performances that hasn't so much as a whisper of either effort or ingenuity. After finally breaking through after ten years in the business as the coldest and coolest of the violent thieves in Reservoir Dogs he did supporting work in A-list films until finally going the Rutger Hauer route of starring in mostly direct-to-video fodder well beneath him, with Sacrifice falling square in this unfortunate category even if it does manage to sporadically entice. Here, Madsen plays an armed robber who escapes FBI custody to make his way back home to the small southern town of Sweetwater to find the killer of his daughter, who's the latest in a vicious string of similar murders of other women plaguing the community without a whole lot left in the way of clues. All were killed while wearing their occupational uniforms and had their breasts slashed off; and going by the lack of defensive wounds, it's assumed that they knew or felt comfortable around the culprit. Of course, in an attempt to add girth to the shallow screenplay there's Madsen also having to elude the two FBI agents tracking him, the clutches of the local crime boss who he turned his back on way back, and a crooked cop who he blackmails to get the police files of the case. In fact, the only aspect that interests is Madsen's useful affiliation with a gutsy local woman who knows the details of the town he's been away from for too long; predictably, she segues into love-interest territory, which isn't so bad being that she's played by the forceful, sexy Jamie Luner, the only thespian involved who manages to etch a fine characterization. So with the contextual value rather low there's all the more need for efficient execution of the material, but the director who pulled duty, Mark L. Lester, who runs hot (Commando, Class of 1999) and cold (Firestarter, Armed and Dangerous), can't work up any tension or suspense, with a laughably inept car chase the film's definite low point. Granted, both the nudity and gore factors are admittedly pretty high, though whether they're enough to slog through the sub-par padding in between is questionable at best. Why can't directors like Lester have an inkling during the production phase that their scenes lack finesse while not lacking dead spaces; that incorporating red herrings too early in the game sets off a mental alarm that said persons can't possibly be the killer due to a lot left in the running time; that Madsen deserved to have his wrists slapped for unenergetically running in too-heavy-to-flee/Steven Seagal mode; and that blatantly ripping off the villain's motivation from the second-rate Gary Oldman/Kevin Bacon thriller Criminal Law wasn't exactly the best way to go? That said, the film isn't terrible, just terribly dull, with a who-cares hero registering near zero on both the dramatic and charismatic scale. I'd be happy to predict that Madsen probably has a good film in him somewhere down the line, but after seeing his 2009 slate of no less then twenty-eight(!) projects, it's safe to concretely conclude that here's an ultra-slumming actor preferring quantity over quality. A The Wrestler couldn't come along soon enough.

Hopefully, Madsen will appear in something worthwhile before we colonize Neptune.

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originally posted: 06/22/09 22:44:20
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  23-Jun-2000 (R)
  DVD: 28-Nov-2000


  N/A (MA)

Directed by
  Mark L. Lester

Written by
  Randall Frakes

  Michael Madsen
  Bokeem Woodbine
  Jamie Luner
  Diane Farr
  Joshua Leonard

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