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  • Writer's pictureGabe Powers

Sabotage (1996) Blu-ray Review


MVD Rewind

Blu-ray Release: May 7, 2024

Video: 1.78:1/1080p/Color

Audio: English LPCM 2.0 Stereo

Subtitles: English SDH

Run Time: 99:10

Director: Tibor Takács


Colonel Michael Bishop's (Mark Dacascos) last mission went horribly wrong. Destroyed from within. Sabotaged. After years of recovery, Bishop thought he escaped the Black Ops and began a successful new life as a bodyguard to the rich and famous. He was the best with skills most men died learning. But his past caught up with him. His clients began to die violently, at the same shadowy hand that conspired against his Black Op unit. Now he must go on one last mission to destroy the faceless men that run an army. (From MVD’s official synopsis)



The late ‘90s are sort of the forgotten era of modern B-action. The no-holds-barred grindhouse and drive-in circuits had burned out more than a decade earlier, studios like The Cannon Group and Carolco were on their way under, and the mega-low-budget thrillers of the mid-’80s rental boom were falling out of favor as the era of the bloated blockbuster was taking over. I’m not an expert on the subject, but growing up a red-blooded American boy during the period, it feels like basic cable television really took over for video around this time, which meant a certain degree of sanitization. There are, of course, exceptional films during times of drought and, with reserves of unreleased cult favorites running low on the boutique label market, now may be the time to rediscover those hidden gems. 


Perhaps the hidden gem of late-’90s STV/StTV action was Steve Wang’s Drive (1997) – an affable, tightly-knit action comedy with a bit of Hong Kong and Japanese pedigree fronted by Mark Dacascos. Dacascos flirted with the mainstream via studio flops Only the Strong (directed by Sheldon Lettich, 1993) and Double Dragon (directed by James Yukich, 1994), but should have been a Van Damme or Segal-level star. Unfortunately, he was about a decade too late and found himself wasted on subpar productions or decent flicks that died on the vine. Hungarian director Tibor Takács directed Dacascos in four generically titled Canadian productions during this period, starting with Deadly Past (1995) and including the Rutger Hauer vehicle Redline (1997), Sanctuary (1998), and, right in the middle, Sabotage (1996).



Takács is a solid craftsman who already had a couple of really nice looking horror movies under his belt. Before settling into a long career in television – everything from softcore cable porn series The Red Shoe Diaries to child-friendly sit-com Sabrina, the Teenage Witch – Takács made two kid-centric horror fantasies, The Gate (1987) and The Gate II: Trespassers (1990), and an underrated meta-slasher called I, Madman (1989). His direction here is crisp and slick, despite the action set-pieces lacking the creative spark of something like Drive. Technically speaking, the pacing and rhythm of the film is consistently off-kilter, which isn’t great for the storytelling, but does set an unusual and eerie mood. What really works in Sabotage’s favor, though, is its above-average cast. Dacascos (who is very good) is propped up by stalwart character actors and cult favorites Tony Todd and Graham Greene at the absolute height of their careers, alongside John Neville and a relatively unknown actress named Carrie Ann Moss, star of the short-lived Canadian television series Matrix (1993), just over three years before she’d appear in the groundbreaking sci-fi action classic, THE Matrix (1999).



Video

Following its Canadian theatrical debut, Sabotage had its VHS video premiere in 1997 via Warner Home Video. It doesn’t seem to have ever been officially released on North American DVD, but there are Australian and European discs out there. MVD Rewind released their own DVD copy in December of 2023, while Blu-ray editions have been available in the UK and Germany since 2015. MVD’s 1080p, 1.78:1 Blu-ray appears to be using the same transfer used for DigiDreams’ German disc (both of them, actually), which is okay, because it’s decent and at least as good as the film deserves.


If you’re looking for issues, there’s some CRT machine noise in the grain and a hint of edge enhancement – the kind of thing you’d see pretty often from B-movie transfers in 2015 – but there’s still a lot of texture and detail here to appreciate. The colors are punchy without blowing up cinematographer Curtis Petersen’s mostly natural palette choices, though black levels skew either too warm or too cool, depending on the colors surrounding them. The most extensive print damage is typically found at what appears to be the beginning and end of reels and there is a bit of pulsiness during dark scenes.



Audio

Sabotage is presented in uncompressed DTS-HD Master Audio and its original 2.0 stereo. It’s a pretty underwhelming mix that was seemingly designed more for television speakers than theatrical sound systems. Gunshots and explosions are, of course, quite loud and there is some nice dynamic punch throughout, but vocal performances are sometimes so whispery that you can’t understand what characters are saying. Composer Guy Zerafa’s score is centered on percussion and sustained chords with a few mournful piano motifs. It’s also set a bit lower in the mix than I’d normally expect from this type of action movie, but it does help the mood and propels the suspense in the lead up to action sequences.



Extras

  • Interview with Mark Dacascos (32:11, HD) – The actor chats about the making of Sabotage, replacing an unnamed original actor straight off the set of John Frankenheimer’s Island of Dr. Moreau (1996), his lack of prep time, his other films with Takács, the improvisational aspect of the action, working with the cast, and the film’s reception.

  • Interview with Tony Todd (13:24, HD) – Todd discusses the ins & outs of working in Canada, his approach to characterization, his career during the ‘80s and ‘90s, playing the villain in Sabotage, acting training, typically not enjoying watching himself on film, and his relationship with Takács and the cast.

  • MVD Rewind trailers – Drive, Double Dragon, Angel Town (1990), Boogie Boy (1998), and Instinct to Kill (2001)


The images on this page are taken from the BD and sized for the page. Larger versions can be viewed by clicking the images. Note that there will be some JPG compression.

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