MVD Rewind Collection: Sabotage (1996) - Reviewed

Images courtesy of MVD Rewind Collection

Before moving on to direct Hallmark TV movies and straight-to-video monster movies, Hungarian born director Tibor Takács carved out his niche as a low budget purveyor of action and/or horror.  Known mostly for his Vestron horror hit The Gate with Stephen Dorff and its sequel film Gate 2: The Trespassers, the jack-of-all-trades low-budget director spoken of the same breath as Albert Pyun or Nico Mastorakis eventually worked his way up to the Disney TV movie Sabrina the Teenage Witch but not before cranking out this straight-to-video actioner Sabotage starring John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum actor Mark Dacascos, The Matrix actress Carrie-Anne Moss, Graham Greene, John Neville and Candyman star Tony Todd.  Though it flew under the radar of many on its home video premiere, the MVD Rewind Collection have fished the film out of oblivion in a new HD transfer including newly conducted interviews with the two leads Mark Dacascos and Tony Todd as well as a mini-poster and reversible sleeve art.

Colonel Michael Bishop (Mark Dacascos) has spent years recovering from a secret black operation that left him as the sole survivor of his platoon.  Now a successful celebrity bodyguard, Bishop quickly finds his Black Ops past coming back to haunt him when clients of his are killed via sniper attacks and Special-Agent Louise Castle (Carrie-Anne Moss) seems unable to stop it, leading to a web of intrigue involving the highest levels of military force including former comrades Nicholas Tollander (Graham Greene from Dances with Wolves) and Professor Follenfant (veteran actor John Neville).  Recognizing the scale of the situation is too vast and corrupted to police properly, Bishop goes rogue with Castle in tow on a journey that will unmask everything they both thought they knew about the Federal Bureau of Investigation, eventually ballooning into an intense action thriller with a lot of gunfire.

Penned by Rick Filon and Michael Stokes, while ostensibly low-budget with a somewhat damaged print whose reel changes are noticeable almost every time Sabotage still manages to pack in a little home video punch with a spectacular Tony Todd and Mark Dacascos doing some wild fighting sequences including slow-motion roundhouse kicks.  A movie with echoes of Peter Weir’s Witness involving an officer of the law going into hiding to get his own answers and expose corruption at the heart of the FBI while trying to protect the children of Louise Castle as forces from his Black Ops unit close in, the film is a taut action flick that packs in some tense shootouts and more than a few explosions larger than you’d expect for a home video production.  That’s not to say the film isn’t well shot or that it wasn’t originally intended for theaters by none other than First Blood cameraman Curtis Petersen, presented in 1.78:1 on blu-ray.  The soundtrack by Guy Zerafa is fair and gets a reasonable amount of tension going, though it proves secondary to the proceedings onscreen.

For a straight-to-video lean-mean cheapie, Sabotage is kind of star-studded with renowned actor John Neville present, Carrie-Anne Moss in a role that serves as a warm-up to The Matrix, Graham Greene playing against-type as an adversary and a completely larger-than-life Tony Todd who is arguably the most complete character in the film.  From the moment he appears onscreen and throughout his tugging of the leash on his fellow comrades in crime, Todd exudes an intimidating and threatening professional aura seemingly several steps ahead of the heroes.  Watch a home-raid with federal agents and police officers get mowed down like nothing by Todd’s character and you’re thoroughly frightened by this guy.  Mark Dacascos as the film’s hero is fine though he’s mostly tasked with physical acting over emoting.

While for many this flew by on Blockbuster Video rental shelves in the VHS heyday, thanks to the ongoing efforts of MVD Visual and their Rewind Collection, audiences unfamiliar with this little action flick now have a chance to deep dive into a most-underrated B-movie.  Aside from some transfer issues likely inherent to the only surviving source, the release looks great and comes with ornate collectible packaging.  Fans of the low-budget B-movie action flick with some star power behind it will have a field day with Sabotage, a good old fashioned military conspiracy thriller with some really threatening characters in it.  Fans of Carrie-Anne Moss and her pre-Matrix career are inclined to check out what is ostensibly a dress rehearsal for her and Tony Todd fans are in for maybe his scariest character since Candyman.  All in all, another terrific release from MVD Rewind Collection!

--Andrew Kotwicki