Once upon a time there was a decade called the 1990s. In that time there was a world called the land of direct-to-video (DTV) action. In that world there were many princes who aspired to have the crowns held by kings like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone and Bruce Willis. One of those princes was Mark Dacascos – and he starred in a 1996 film called Sabotage.
Directed by Tibor Takacs, Sabotage sees Dacascos as an elite soldier turned body guard working with an F.B.I. agent (Carrie-Anne Moss) to uncover a conspiracy and track down the sniper at its centre (Tony Todd).
This is the type of movie that has died because of the rise of CGI driven action extravaganzas. The DTV world mirrored the muscle driven action movies of the 80s and 90s and it was very easy to copy that aesthetic on a lower budget. It’s not easy anymore and the closest thing to that is the ‘mockbuster’ mentality which winks at its audience because of the bad special effects. However, DTV movies were pure in their aim to entertain and deliver the same thrills as their big budget counterparts.
It might be a bit silly, but Sabotage hits the target because of its no-nonsense aesthetic and good casting. Mark Dacascos was one of the better DTV stars of the era and he has enough acting nuance and charm to play this type of character. It also helps that he’s surrounded by a solid supporting cast. A pre-Maxtrix Carrie-Anne Moss, a post Dances With Wolves Graham Greene and the Candyman himself, Tony Todd plays the film’s antagonist. That’s an impressive line-up for a low key actioner like this.
Sabotage won’t set your world on fire – but it’s a solid DTV thriller that relies on old school thrills. There’s decent character work and a solid conviction at work here and it reminds you that big doesn’t always mean better.