Sterling // 1998 // 93 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Nicholas Sylvain (Retired) // August 19th, 1999
Trained to Kill. Marked for Death.
I have to admit that I didn't expect much from a B-movie like Supreme Sanction. I wanted to check it out because I really like Michael Madsen and figured his performance alone would be worth a look. I was suitably impressed that a lower-budget action movie looked this good and actually had some decent actors besides Michael Madsen, and even more so with the DVD treatment by Sterling. If a smaller outfit like Sterling can do such a good job with a B-movie like Supreme Sanction, then there's no excuse for the bigger boys. Hello? Fox? Paramount? Buena Vista? You fellows listening?
Supreme Sanction tells the story of Jenna (Kristy Swanson), a beautiful blonde assassin who works for a super-secret anti-terrorist government agency named Alpha Section. (If this sounds a LOT like La Femme Nikita, then you're not alone.) Ordered to kill Jordan Roberts (David Dukes), a journalist who knows too much, Jenna refuses. Needless to say, her supervisor, Dalton (Michael Madsen) is peeved, so much that he orders the other members of Alpha Section on scene to kill her. A couple of short gunfights later, Jenna escapes and heads straight for her friendly armorer and gadget man Marcus (Donald Adeosun Faison).
Jenna loads up on the firearms, determined to save Jordan Roberts from the eventual retaliation of Dalton. Not a moment too soon, because Dalton and a pack of agents are hot on Jordan's trail, and only Jenna saves him from certain death. After a few tense moments, some gunplay, mayhem, and vehicular assault, Jenna and Jordan escape from Dalton and return to Marcus' apartment for some rest. Jenna and Jordan discuss their situation, only to learn that Dalton has kidnapped Jordan's daughter and is holding her hostage.
Jenna, Jordan and Marcus quickly put together a plan to fight Alpha Section and save Jordan's daughter. While Jordan meets with Dalton, and is interrogated with drugs as expected, Jenna and Marcus infiltrate themselves into the walls of the Alpha Section office. Jenna cracks into the computer system, with Marcus' help, and extracts the files necessary to expose the whole operation. However, she is captured in her attempt to liberate Jordan and escape. After the usual swapping of witty dialogue between good and bad guys, Jenna takes advantage of the sudden stupidity by Dalton and the Alpha Section team and merrily liberates Jordan and herself with a good bracing dose of mayhem and gunfire. They all escape, secure in the knowledge that Alpha Section will be exposed and brought to its evil knees, and even the elusive Dalton has a reunion with his turncoat colleague. The End.
The video is nearly reference quality. As advertised on the package, this anamorphic transfer was made from a high-definition master, which is a decision that must have contributed to the high quality of the transfer. Colors are well saturated and vibrant, sharpness is good, and blacks are solid. As one would expect from a new anamorphic transfer, ringing or shimmering from digital enhancement is absent. The print is very clean, with only minor flecks or blemishes. The only video related issue I noticed was a lack of contrast and definition in some less well-lit scenes, but this seems to be an issue with the lighting on set and not with the disc.
The audio is listed on the package as 4-channel Dolby Stereo Surround, with channels for left, center, right and surround. I suppose this is an improvement over traditional Dolby Pro Logic, but still a curiosity. The audio keeps pace with the video, with nice directional effects, channel separation, and frequent use of the subwoofer. Dialogue is generally clear, but on occasion I had to boost my volume to hear some soft-spoken scenes.
Extras include the typical (widescreen) theatrical trailer, somewhat sketchy bio and filmography notes for cast and crew, and an entertaining commentary track with writer/director John Terlesky and Michael Madsen. You may not get a track jam-packed with insight or technical details, but you do get some of those along with a lot of funny moments, including Michael Madsen doing a hilarious Marlon Brando impersonation. I also found it interesting that the version they watched for the commentary was 4:3 formatted. Menus are movie themed and incorporate animation and sound, and the scene selection uses video clips! Sterling wisely uses the preferred Amaray keep case.
Michael Madsen plays the role we expect, presenting a quietly menacing figure with style and dry humor. David Dukes is perhaps the best actor I have never heard of before, playing his journalist with a very natural and believable style as an average man thrust into unbelievable circumstances. Donald Adeosun Faison is a talent as well, giving his hardware-happy guy a sweetly loyal and endearing quality, which contrasts nicely with the very stern Jenna.
Kristy Swanson is certainly easy on the eyes, and she puts her effort behind her performance. However, I just can't buy into her in the role of a trained assassin. I am a devoted fan of the USA Network's La Femme Nikita show, and Kristy Swanson is definitely no Peta Wilson, who is quite attractive, compassionate, yet convincing in the very same sort of role. Ron Perlman, as "the Director," is okay, except at the end where he goes soft in the brain and out of established character for no justifiable reason.
The story is adequate, keeping the action moving along, if in a somewhat predictable fashion. The main flaws have to do with being far too open and trusting of the famous TV personality Jordan Roberts as well as an ending that depends far too much on the bad guys being overly stupid. I mean, really, did these bad guys memorize the James Bond Villain handbook? If you capture the good guys, at the very least tie them up and/or strap them down nicely (or just KILL them) before you spill your guts to the camera. Also, the great plan to do in Alpha Section seems to omit any effort to ensure that Jordan's daughter is rescued unharmed. As it is, Alpha Section would have had plenty of opportunity to kill her and/or use her to threaten Jenna and Jordan.
I noticed an odd flaw in the cast and crew section, where the tops of portions of the words were missing in some bizarre formatting problem. Also, someone at Sterling needs to proofread the text on the back of their packages -- ."...a way out of a deadliest institute..."; I think they meant deadly.
A pleasant diversion for an hour and a half, I recommend Supreme Sanction for anyone looking for a little action, as long as they aren't expecting an Oscar winner, and if you want to buy it, the price ($25) is acceptable.
The film is after due deliberation acquitted, and the disc is acquitted without reservation. Thank you, Sterling!
Review content copyright © 1999 Nicholas Sylvain; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 4.0 Surround (English)
Running Time: 93 Minutes
Release Year: 1998
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Theatrical Trailer
* Biographies and Filmographies
* Commentary Track With Director And Actor