Continuing his direct-to-DVD attempts to convince us that he’s a brooding tough guy, Cuba Gooding Jr. plays a grieving, alcoholic cop (and former Special Forces guy who was over in Afghanistan) in this 2011 film from hack Canadian writer-director Damian Lee (the immortally awful “Abraxas: Guardian of the Universe” and the not much better “Gnaw: Food of the Gods II”). Toronto narcotics cop Gooding is still grieving over the murder of his wife and daughter to a crim. He gets a chance at redemption when asked to look after a little girl (Arcadia Kendal) left at a day-care centre run by Gooding’s friend Athena Karkanis (TV’s “Lost Girl”, which I command you to watch). The girl was left there by her older brother (Devon Bostick), a young drug dealer who is attempting to get out of the biz. Unfortunately, Bostick’s employers Jade (Lara Daans) and Rook (Zion Lee) don’t take kindly to Bostick’s attempts to leave, and definitely don’t appreciate him stealing a statue of the Virgin Mary that is lined with heroin. Bostick has hidden the statue in a church run by Gooding’s old special forces pal and now priest (Christian Slater), who is none the wiser. Unsurprisingly, once Bostick is out of the way, Jade, Rook, and Rook’s dad (a crooked cop played by Kim Coates) set about tracking down the girl so she can lead them to the statue.
Once again Cuba fails to convince as a brooding antihero, and the film itself is slow and clunky. There’s way too many scenes of Cuba downing booze and popping pills...in just the first fifteen minutes. There’s too much time spent on this stuff, and it’s cribbed from just about every Cuba Gooding Jr. direct-to-DVD movie before it anyway (“Wrong Turn at Tahoe”, in particular, which was a lot better). It also asks one to believe Christian Slater as a priest and former soldier who can’t recognise a statue made out of narcotics when he sees one. Sorry, but there’s no way that Slater’s anything but an expert on that kind of thing, if you ask me. We’ve all read the tabloids. Having one of the chief crims (Zion Lee) look alarmingly like Dr. Sheldon Cooper also doesn’t help the credibility factor, either. I can put up with Devon Bostick looking like a wet-mouthed 19 year-old, because his character is meant to be a little more sympathetic, but Zion Lee is seriously unthreatening as the more antagonistic of the two. In fact, Slater fares reasonably OK, all joking/insults aside, at least he gives a solid performance in his role. The best work in the whole film comes from Canadian character actor Kim Coates (who also served as Executive Producer) as a dirty cop and father to one of the young drug dealer scumbags. He’s at least genuinely menacing and imposing, if underused. He’s an underrated actor, but often a sign that you’re watching a shithouse flick (He was in both “Waterworld” and “Battlefield: Earth”, and yet still finds work!).
As for the plot, it’s pretty uninteresting stuff, the kind of thing you could see Steven Seagal and co tackling in one of his “True Justice” TV flicks, but even more TV drama-quality than that (Bad TV drama, that is). And it’s all so clunky and slow, as I’ve said, because Lee decides to give just about everyone a flashback and back-story, whether they feel organically integrated into the film or not. I guess the flashbacks help in making the plot seem a little less simplistic than it really is, but they are so clunky and grind the film to a halt. Besides, back-story and character depth are not the same thing, and this film definitely lacks character depth. The character played by Kim Coates, and the femme fatale character played by Lara Daans (AKA Mrs. Damian Lee), in particular, are woefully underdeveloped.
I’m no huge Cuba Gooding Jr. fan, but it’s so sad to see any Oscar winner resorting to making direct-to-DVD films in roles that don’t suit his limited talents. He’s too charismatic to be stuck in dreck like this. Slater, too (a genuinely talented actor in the right role), but let’s face it, some of the blame for his downward spiralling career must go to Slater himself. Oh, and the film is edited by a Joseph Weadick. For some reason, that just cracked me up when I read it, so I thought I’d share it with you. Weadick! It’s good to laugh at funny names...especially when there’s so precious little else to discuss here.