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The Gratuitous B-Movie Column: Sabotage

December 27, 2021 | Posted by Bryan Kristopowitz

The Gratuitous B-Movie Column Issue #601: Sabotage

Dacascos December!

Hello, everyone, and welcome once again to the internets movie review column that has never been tasked with rescuing hostages in a war zone (and thank God for that because how the hell would I do it? I mean, I have no experience doing anything like that. You should always leave that kind of thing to the professionals), The Gratuitous B-Movie Column, and I am your host Bryan Kristopowitz. In this issue, issue number six hundred and one, it’s Dacascos December with a look at the low budget action flick Sabotage, which made its worldwide debut on HBO way back in early March 1996.



Sabotage, directed by the great Tibor Takacs, is a fairly decent mid-1990’s low budget action flick, the kind of movie that used to be a mainstay of cable and video stores back then. It’s chock full of shockingly bloody action, weird beard conspiracy intrigue, and features a truly batshit performance from modern horror icon Tony Todd (this movie came out the same year as the Michael Bay big budget action extravaganza The Rock, where Todd played a bad guy Marine under the command of Ed Harris. I’m surprised that Todd hasn’t done more action stuff in his career). The flick stars Mark Dacascos as Michael Bishop, a badass ex-Naval Intelligence operator (is that the same thing as a Navy SEAL? It might be, but the movie never makes it clear. If this movie had come out today Bishop would definitely be a Navy SEAL) who, after losing multiple hostages in a botched rescue mission in Bosnia, becomes a badass bodyguard for the rich and powerful. While on a job protecting mega rich guy Jeffrey Trent (Richard Coulter) and his wife Susan (Heidi von Palleske), Bishop is ambushed by the crazed sniper hitman Jason Sherwood (Tony Todd) and Jeffrey Trent and several other bodyguards are killed. Because he’s a badass professional, Bishop tries to apprehend Sherwood, but he just misses the killer by a few seconds. Trent’s assassination brings in the FBI and Special Agent Louise Castle (Carrie-Anne Moss), who immediately suspects that Bishop is involved in the killing. He isn’t, of course, but Castle doesn’t know that. She intends to find out, though.


As Castle begins her investigation, Bishop begins his own investigation and tries to figure out what the hell happened. Bishop meets with his old mentor and friend Professor Follenfant (John Neville) and gets the inside info on Trent that only Follenfant would know (or could know). While all of that is going on, Castle runs into CIA goon Nicholas Tollander (Graham Greene), who used to be Bishop’s commander back when he was in naval intelligence. Why would the CIA be interested in Trent’s killing? And what sort of insight, if any, can Tollander provide into Bishop? Just what the heck is going on here?

So then some stuff happens, the FBI puts a multi-man security detail on Mrs. Trent, and Sherwood immediately obliterates most of that security detail and manages to take out Mrs. Trent. Bishop, who was meeting with Castle right before the second ambush, once again tries to apprehend Sherwood but fails (he does manage to take down Sherwood’s partner/accomplice, so there’s that). It’s at this point that Castle realizes that her initial thoughts regarding Bishop’s involvement in Mr. Trent’s assassination were possibly wrong, but she isn’t fully onboard with Bishop not being involved in some way. It’s the only thing that makes sense (to her. We know that Bishop didn’t do it).


So then some more stuff happens, Bishop convinces Castle that she needs his help in figuring out what the heck is really going on, and we find out that Trent’s assassination involves multiple parties, competing interests, and loads of money. Elements of the CIA and FBI are revealed to be as corrupt as hell, too. And so Castle tries to piece together what she can while avoiding the wrath of her corrupt FBI boss (I want to say that this is Mr. Putley, played by James Purcell, but I’m not entirely sure on that), Castle avoids assassins sent to kill him as he runs his own investigation, and Sherwood regroups with his fellow assassins to make their next moves.

While in some ways, the conspiracy at the heart of Sabotage is nothing action movie and thriller nerds haven’t seen a million times before, there are still enough wrinkles in the plot to provide the occasional twist. The ending surprised me quite a bit, as I really thought that the movie would go an entirely different way with a specific character. The general cynicism of the corruption on display is also quite shocking as it feels both mundane and world shattering at the same time. Would the various entities involved in the big hooha conspiracy to assassinate Mr. Trent really do everything that we see them do in order to assassinate Mr. Trent? Why would anyone go through so much complicated what have you in order to kill a rich guy? When you realize that, in the end, it’s all about money, the conspiracy makes all of the sense in the world. Because they all want and need money and the power that money creates, of course they would go through multiple hoops and generate maximum, pointless carnage in order to achieve maximum money. That’s just how this world works.

The general look of the movie is slightly above your typical mid-1990’s low budget action movie, but it’s still very much of its time. There’s a certain muted feel to the cinematography, a haziness that mid-1990’s action movie fans are very familiar with, but there’s also a little more brightness spread throughout Sabotage than you would expect to see. Some people might complain about the darkness in the big hotel fight scene between Bishop and the goons sent to kill him, but the onscreen muddiness makes sense. You’re not meant to see everything in Bishop’s room, but you do see everything that you need to see in order to understand what’s going on. The most important thing is the sequence where Bishop kicks a bad guy through a window and the bad guy falls onto the roof of a parked car. That’s what you’re going to remember.

The action director Takacs puts together is top notch stuff. From the various martial arts scenes that Dacascos engages in to the copious number of gun battles and multiple explosions, Sabotage is an exciting goddamn movie. The gun battles are also surprisingly bloody and violent, something I didn’t expect but am very much in favor of. Look at what Sherwood’s Uzi does to Bishop in Bosnia. It’s insane how nasty that all looks (just how the hell did Bishop survive such an onslaught of hot lead? How did Sherwood’s Uzi not cut Bishop in half?). And then there’s the brief, blink and you miss it exploding kneecaps scene. You will wince and cry out in pain once you realize what you’ve seen. I also want to commend the movie’s two final head shots. I won’t say who experiences an unexpected cranium evacuation, but low budget action movie fans will definitely dig what you get to see.

The movie’s soundtrack, put together by Guy Zerafa, is a bit disappointing because of the lack of a memorable theme. The music isn’t terrible, but movies like Sabotage always work best when they have a catchy main theme that plays over the end credits.


Mark Dacascos is fantastic as Bishop. Dacascos makes Bishop a complete badass but he also makes him approachable and not a standoffish asshole (that could have easily happened with a character like Bishop). It makes total sense that Bishop would become a bodyguard after being drummed out of Naval intelligence and that, despite the violence that seems to surround him at all times, he’s a nice guy that only wants to do his job and not die. Dacascos also gets to showcase just how talented he is as a martial artist (the hotel fight scene is amazing). Could the movie have used more of Dacascos fighting bad guys? Absolutely. But the stuff that we do get is damn good and that’s enough.


Carrie-Anne Moss does a a great job as FBI Special Agent Louise Castle. She’s a badass, yes, but she’s also leery of the political bullshit she has to deal with when it comes to her cases, her boss, and the FBI as a whole. Castle also handles the inevitable misogynistic bullshit from her fellow cops like a total pro (she just wants to find out what happened and complete her investigation. She doesn’t really care about all of the other bullshit that comes along with her type of job). Moss has decent buddy chemistry with Dacascos, and they make for a formidable team later on in the movie. Moss also gets to shine a bit in the few big action scenes she’s charged with performing in. She’s not Dacascos but she holds her own (her eventual role as Trinity in The Matrix franchise makes total sense after watching this movie).


Tony Todd is brilliantly unhinged as assassin Jason Sherwood. From the second you see him you know that he’s the personification of unbridled violence and exactly the kind of bad guy that you want to see hero Mark Dacascos destroy. There are moments where it seems like Todd is using a Jamaican accent for Sherwood for absolutely no reason, and then he doesn’t do it again for a little while, and then he does it again. Why does he do it? Is it because Sherwood is such a psychopath that he does it to amuse himself? It could be that or something else no one has thought of. As I said earlier, I’m surprised that Todd hasn’t done more action movie stuff in his career. He was good at it back in the mid-1990’s. I wouldn’t mind seeing Tony Todd do something like Taken at this point in his career. I think he would rock at it.

Graham Greene is sleaze personified as CIA asshole Nicholas Tollander. At first, you’re not quite sure how you’re supposed to react to Tollander. Is he a misunderstood good guy? Is he a bad guy? Is he one of those “shades of gray” jagoffs that you just can’t trust? Amazingly, Greene makes Tollander all three at roughly the same time, and I think you’ll be surprised where Tollander ends up. Greene also does this creepy as hell thing with lip balm that will make your skin crawl. Just thinking about it now is freaking me the fuck out.

And then there’s John Neville as Professor Follenfant, Bishop’s mentor. I really thought that Follenfant would be one of those “mentor” characters that you see a few times in the story but really doesn’t figure into the main plot all that much (or he would be one of those “mentor” characters that goes out in a blaze of glory in the middle of the movie). Follenfant is way more important than being a throwaway character and you will have to pay attention to what he does and says throughout the movie. And is the way the movie deals with Follenfant’s sexual orientation homophobic or is it too clever to be considered homophobic? I really don’t know. What do you guys think?

I enjoyed Sabotage quite a bit. It’s well made, it features multiple top notch performances from a terrific cast, and it shows the world what kind of action star Mark Dacascos is (he’s a top guy through and through). The movie also showcases just how great mid-1990’s low budget action flicks could be when done the right way. Sabotage is awesome and I implore you, if you haven’t already, to check it out. It’s on Tubi for free right now as I write this. Make an effort to see it. It’s worth your time.

See Sabotage. See it, see it, see it.


So what do we have here?

Dead bodies: 38 (that’s what imdb claims, and I have no reason to doubt that count)

Explosions: Multiple, both big and small. They’re all excellent.

Nudity?: None.

Doobage: Multiple explosions in a war zone, sniper hooey, multiple tripwire booby-traps, a dog, neck snap, shotgun hooey, Uzi hooey, exploding building, a private plane, body armor hooey, slow motion walking off a plane, bullet POV hooey, a bullet goes through two people, security guard killing, a kid’s birthday party, jurisdictional pissing contest hooey, a gay guy in a wheelchair, mild homophobia, cop killing in slow motion for absolutely no reason, an off screen discussion, an awesome hotel early warning system, ATM hooey, exploding ATM, attempted hotel room assassination, a brutal hotel room martial arts brawl, guy gets kicked out of hotel room window and then falls onto the roof of a car in slow motion, dead body policing, multiple “cleaners,” off screen guy sleeping in a car, pay phone hooey, slow motion drive by shooting, a wild flip, a big twist, attempted SWAT team attack, gas mask hooey, exploding kneecaps, one of the least competent FBI SWAT teams in action movie history, exploding light bulbs, a hockey rink shootout, a dead Zamboni driver, serious neck breaking, hostage taking, runaway Zamboni, interrogation hooey, a poison click pen, a very dead babysitter, an excellent bullet to the head, improvised explosive hooey, exploding house, serious sniper rifle hooey, off screen exploding head, a homophobic turn of phrase that may be clever when you look at it as a plot point, and ID trashing.

Kim Richards?: None.

Gratuitous: “And Tony Todd,” Mark Dacascos, Mark Dacascos as a sniper, Graham Greene, Graham Greene chewing on a cigar, Tony Todd, Tony Todd using an Uzi, Baltimore, Maryland, a $100 bill, talk of comfortable shoes, an awesome looking sniper rifle, Tony Todd saying “I spy with my little eye,” Tony Todd fucking around with a security guard, Carrie-Anne Moss, Carrie-Anne Moss running a kid’s birthday party, John Neville, John Neville in a wheelchair, a framed picture of Winston Churchill on the wall, ducks, Tony Todd killing cops for no reason, rubber gloves, an explanation for what an “idiot cut” is, Tony Todd upset about the mess in the kitchen of the apartment he’s staying in with several other bad guys and he pours out the contents of a tea kettle in total disgust, Mark Dacascos making an early warning system out of a lamp in his hotel room, 1996 laptop computer graphics and brief animation, Mark Dacascos using an ATM machine, Graham Greene being a sleazy asshole, an old woman that can’t get her ATM card to work, Tony Todd filling light bulbs with a weird green liquid, video enhancer hooey, kids playing street hockey, someone calling street hockey ball hockey, runaway Zamboni, Dunkin Donuts coffee, a homophobic turn of phrase that may be clever when you look at it as a plot point, and ID trashing.

Best lines: “Recon One, do you copy? Recon One, what the hell is going on out there?,” “Sorry, love,” “We are hired beef,” “I’m not a bartender, Mrs. Trent,” “It’s your lucky day, Mr. Bartender,” “It’s my gun, not my penis,” “I’m a bodyguard, professor. I’m not supposed to lose my client,” “Long live… the white queen,” “I think a man’s first kill should be a personal thing,” “Mommy, are you a spy?,” “Castle, when’s the last time you saw the bodyguard?,” “No one uses me,” “You know, there’s a difference between closing a case and solving one,” “How long do you think you can play by the rules?,” “I feel like I got hit by a sledgehammer. Yeah, I know the feeling,” “Fuck you, wet boy,” “It’s party time!,” “Put the gun away or I’ll snap her neck,” “You should have taken the shot. Come on,” “You’re fucked,” “Tollander! You prick! Yes, I am,” “Castle, we’re gonna find her. Fuck you. Fuck you,” “Look, if we live, you can bake me a cake. If we live I’ll try not to arrest your ass,” “Ouch. It was fun while it lasted,” “Got him. Fuck! Mommy, he said a bad word,” “I thought the queen was Mrs. Trent,” “The pawn. How dissatisfying,” and “The sonofabitch that put him in that chair should have done a better job. I wish I had.”

Rating: 8.5/10.0




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Things to Watch Out For


One Shot: This is the low budget “military” action flick starring Scott Adkins that is supposedly all one continuous shot. Directed by the great James Nunn, the reviews for this movie have been generally positive, with loads of people liking the whole “all done in one shot” gimmick. Is it a real thin, though, the whole “one shot” thing? It can’t be, can it, especially when it’s an action movie with some complicated stunts and fights scenes and whatnot? It may look like it was all done in one shot, but I have my doubts. Regardless, Nunn usually delivers, and Scott Adkins is someone all B-movie nerds should be supporting as much as possible. Ryan Phillippe is also in this, so it has that going for it, too.


Escape from Death Block 13: This low budget action flick has been on my radar since I first heard about it, as it stars the great Robert Bronzi. Nicholas Turturro and Lawrence Hilton- Jacobs are also in it, but Bronzi is the big draw here. The flick has Bronzi’s character sent to a notorious prison on trumped up charges, and then he has to break out and kill a bunch of people and whatnot. I mean, what more do you need when you have the Robert Bronzi as your star? Can’t wait to see this.


Hell Hath No Fury: A new low budget action flick from Jesse V. Johnson? How is that not an automatic must see? And it shouldn’t matter what the movie is about. You know that JVJ is going to bring the goods and make a kick ass movie no matter what. Hell Hath No Fury, which has been receiving some fabulous reviews, takes place during World War II and has Nina Bergman as a disgraced guide trying to help people look for a stash of gold that also being hunted down by the Nazis and various other entities. Bloody brutality ensues. Johnson and company have put together another top notch cast, with Daniel Bernhardt, Louis Mandylor, and Dominique Vandenberg all in the movie alongside star Bergman. This is yet another absolute must see for me, and hopefully I’ll get the chance to see it soon enough. Jesse V. Johnson movies are always worth seeing. Always.


Fortress: I know I say this every time I find out about a new low budget, direct-to-video Bruce Willis movie, but I really need to carve out some time in my life to see more of them. Because, really, someone has to be watching these movies as no one would keep making them if they weren’t somewhat popular. In this one, Willis joins co-stars Chad Michael Murray, Jesse Metcalfe, Shannen Doherty, and Kelly Greyson, and the plot concerns a secret sort of resort in the woods for retired spies (Willis is one of them) and the ensuing assault on that secret resort. I’m sure it will be at least watchable. Anyone out there see this? Anyone at all?


Next Issue: It’s Dacascos December with the low budget action flick Sanctuary!


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Well, I think that’ll be about it for now. Don’t forget to sign up with disqus if you want to comment on this article and any other 411 article. You know you want to, so just go do it.

B-movies rule. Always remember that.

Merry Christmas!

Happy Holidays!


Mark Dacascos– Michael Bishop
Carrie-Anne Moss– Special Agent Louise Castle
Tony Todd– Jason Sherwood
Graham Greene– Nicholas Tollander
John Neville– Professor Follenfant
James Purcell– Mr. Putley
Sarah Rosen Fruitman– Melissa Castle
Richard Coulter– Jeffrey Trent
Heidi von Palleske– Susan Trent

(check out the rest of the cast here)

Directed by Tibor Takacs
Screenplay by Rick Filon and Michael Stokes

Distributed by HBO, Imperial Entertainment Corporation, New City Releasing, and Warner Home Video

Rated R for strong violence and some language
Runtime– 99 minutes

Buy it here. You can also watch it on Tubi as I write this.