You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Film Review: ‘Sacrifice’

Strong performances elevate this intermittently absorbing family melodrama from writer-director Michael Cohn.

Luke Kleintank, Austin Abrams, Lewis Tan, Brandon Smith, James McDaniel, Melora Walters, Dermot Mulroney.

Official Site: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2842732/

When high-school bros go deep into the woods armed with hunting rifles and expanding torsos, there will be blood, along with plentiful inclement weather. There are gobs of both in “Sacrifice, but also a quieter moral reckoning that offers the more compelling reason to see this conventional, intermittently absorbing indie from writer-director Michael Cohn (“When the Bough Breaks”). For all its thriller accessorizing, the film grows on you — a little — as a biblical family melodrama that digs into the domestic origins of a compound crime while piling on the wages of sin. Solidly fortified with seasoned actors Dermot Mulroney and Melora Walters, and Austin Abrams as a struggling adolescent, the movie was made under the aegis of the film collaborative JuntoBox, and its combination of horror frissons and contemplative character study should give it modest crossover appeal in young and older markets.

Part hunk, part otherworldly good boy, Texan football hero Hank Youngblood (Luke Kleintank) appears to be blessed with all the luck in the world. The clear favorite of his dysfunctional parents, Hank graduates from high school courted by college coaches and a doe-eyed classmate. Setting out on a celebratory hunting trip with his besties Benny (Lewis Tan) and Kaz (Brandon Smith), Hank reluctantly tows along his younger brother, Tim (Abrams), a skinny also-ran who both idolizes and resents his sibling.

In the forest with beers and weed and all that verboten gear (no girls allowed in Man Land), a gun goes off by accident, then another possibly by design — all of which piles up more corpses, comas and torrential rain than intelligent plotting requires. The fallout unhinges those left behind, and fans out into further malignancy in their small town.

Cohn’s script is overly transparent, and the moral reflection in Sacrifice is not exactly Dostoevsky. But when the action ventures out of the woods and digs into the moral rot that afflicts Hank and Tim’s family, the movie picks up some emotional steam and introduces some welcome ambiguity into its title. Abrams shows promising range as the tortured little brother who, so far from coming into his own as expected, unravels splendidly under mounting pressure. Additional polish comes from Walters as the boys’ ground-down mother and Mulroney as their father, a disappointed lush who has poured his deferred dreams into his elder son while willfully neglecting his needy younger child.

Pressure mounts on Hank, too, and the flow of warped response from one to the other of this benighted family is astutely and sympathetically done. There are no victors or villains, only mixed motives in Sacrifice.” Everybody has his (and her) reasons, but that complexity is undercut by an 11th-hour twist that strains all belief, and a lazily tacked-on confession at the climax. To say nothing of the movie’s flawed premise that not only original sin but every inconsequential transgression, every lie and ethical fudge, brings us closer to whacking our friends and neighbors.

Film Review: 'Sacrifice'

Reviewed on DVD, Los Angeles, Oct. 17, 2014. Running time: 105 MIN.

Production: A Paladin release of a JuntoBox production. Produced by Jeanine Rohn and Joseph Sememse. Executive producers, Nina Yang Biojovi, Philippe Caland, Rachid Rizk.

Crew: Directed, written by Michael Cohn. Camera (color), Steven Parker; editors, Heather Born, Brian Ufberg; music, Roger Suen; production designer, Alejandro Sescosse; art directors, Michelle Hempton, Ava Beard, Duy Hoang; set decorator, Michelle Howe; costume designer, Liz Tee; sound, Dolby Digital; supervising sound editor, Kent Gibson; re-recording mixers, Kent Gibson; stunt coordinator, Oscar Carles; line producer, Sandhya Shardanand; associate producers, Erica Brady, Christine O’Brien; assistant director, Chris Dufau; casting, Emily Schweber.

With: Luke Kleintank, Austin Abrams, Lewis Tan, Brandon Smith, James McDaniel, Melora Walters, Dermot Mulroney.

More Film

  • 'Curse of La Llorona' Tops International

    'Curse of La Llorona' Tops International Box Office With $30 Million

    Warner Bros. and New Line’s “The Curse of La Llorona” led the way at the international box office, summoning $30 million when it opened in 71 foreign markets. The supernatural thriller collected $26.5 million in North America for a global start of $56.5 million. “La Llorona,” based on the Mexican folklore about the Weeping Woman, [...]

  • Box Office: 'Curse of La Llorona'

    Box Office: 'Curse of La Llorona' Wins Worst Easter Weekend in Over a Decade

    Warner Bros. and New Line’s “The Curse of La Llorona” ascended to the top of domestic box office charts, conjuring $26.5 million when it opened in 3,372 North American theaters. “La Llorona” is the latest horror movie to outperform expectations, further cementing the genre as one of the most reliable box office draws. Even so, [...]

  • FX's 'Snowfall' Panel TCA Winter Press

    John Singleton Hospitalized After Suffering Stroke

    UPDATED with statements from John Singleton’s family and FX Networks John Singleton, the Oscar nominated director and writer of “Boyz N’ the Hood,” has suffered a stroke. Sources confirm to Variety that Singleton checked himself into the hospital earlier this week after experiencing pain in his leg. The stroke has been characterized by doctors as [...]

  • 'Curse of La Llorona' Leads Slow

    'Curse of La Llorona' Leads Slow Easter Weekend at the Box Office

    New Line’s horror pic “The Curse of La Llorona” will summon a solid $25 million debut at the domestic box office, leading a quiet Easter weekend before Marvel’s “Avengers: Endgame” hits theaters on April 26. The James Wan-produced “La Llorona,” playing in 3,372 theaters, was a hit with hispanic audiences, who accounted for nearly 50% [...]

  • Jim Jarmusch in 'Carmine Street Guitars'

    Film Review: 'Carmine Street Guitars'

    “Carmine Street Guitars” is a one-of-a-kind documentary that exudes a gentle, homespun magic. It’s a no-fuss, 80-minute-long portrait of Rick Kelly, who builds and sells custom guitars out of a modest storefront on Carmine Street in New York’s Greenwich Village, and the film touches on obsessions that have been popping up, like fragrant weeds, in [...]

  • Missing Link Laika Studios

    ‘Missing Link’ Again Tops Studios’ TV Ad Spending

    In this week’s edition of the Variety Movie Commercial Tracker, powered by the TV ad measurement and attribution company iSpot.tv, Annapurna Pictures claims the top spot in spending for the second week in a row with “Missing Link.” Ads placed for the animated film had an estimated media value of $5.91 million through Sunday for [...]

  • Little Woods

    Film Review: 'Little Woods'

    So much of the recent political debate has focused on the United States’ southern border, and on the threat of illegal drugs and criminals filtering up through Mexico. But what of the north, where Americans traffic opiates and prescription pills from Canada across a border that runs nearly three times as long? “Little Woods” opens [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content