Directed by David Ayer.
Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sam Worthington, Olivia Williams, Terence Howard, Joe Manganiello, Josh Holloway, Max Martini, Harold Perrineau and Mireille Enos.
Members of an elite DEA task force find themselves being taken down one by one after they rob a drug cartel safe house.
Arnold Schwarzenegger’s post political return to film has been a bit of a mixed bag thus far. Aside from a couple of token appearances in the first two Expendables films, his films have all tanked (including his token appearance in The Expendables 3). That’s not to say his output hasn’t been without merits. Arnold’s first proper re-introduction came in the simple, yet highly enjoyable The Last Stand, a film which grows on me every time I see it, and deserved to be watched by more than the half dozen people who actually bothered to see it in cinemas. In addition he did a good job stealing the limelight from Stallone in the otherwise forgettable, Escape Plan. So as we merrily twiddle our thumbs waiting for Terminator Geni…Geney…Genysis, or whatever it’s called, his most recent solo effort, Sabotage hits the high streets and video on demand.
Sabotage promised something of a change of tone and pace for Arnold. From writer and director David Ayer, best known for his unrepentant looks into the dark underbelly of morally obtuse cops and robbers in films like Training Day and Harsh Times. The story centres on Breacher (Schwarzenegger) the head of an elite DEA task force full of questionable characters who get the job done, and aren’t adverse to taking a little bit on the side for their troubles (including Breacher). After one mission in which they take out a Cartel safe house, the team steal the huge load of money they find during the raid. Soon after the money goes missing and the team start getting picked off one by one as seemingly someone wants revenge for the stolen money.
What the film offers Arnold is the chance to play a far darker character than his norm. He’s a dirty cop suffering after the loss of his family, who were murdered by cartel members. Arnold does a good job but at the same time the role really doesn’t suit him, nor is it well written enough by any stretch of the imagination. Arnold isn’t an actor, like Christian Bale for example who has a real edginess and can elevate his material, as Bale did in Harsh Times. Plus it doesn’t feel right to have Arnold play a character with so little redeeming value. So repugnant as to be mostly unlikeable. Arnold’s speciality has always been playing good to the bone characters you get behind whilst he goes off vanquishing evil doers, or playing straight out villains like The Terminator. It just doesn’t work for Arnold here, despite his best efforts. The script and direction aren’t good enough to offer him any sort of worthwhile platform either.
As for the rest of the cast, they all meld together into a sort of blob of hideousness, from their personas, to their dialogue, to their look. Sam Worthington as Monster is one of the more redeemable and well portrayed characters (not saying much) and he does okay. The rest are entirely clichéd characters, almost all of whom are repugnant. It’s a relentlessly (pointlessly) nasty film (billed wrongly as “gritty and real.”).
David Ayer has been involved with better films, notably End of Watch and Training Day. Sabotage blends seemlessly in tone and style with the rest of his work which is laden with formulaic ideas and needlessly grimy delivery. There’s also something half-cocked about Schwarzenegger’s role here. Initially the plan was to have Arnold end up as the villain of the piece, but instead of going all the way with what might have at least given the film some memorable edge, they cop out and tack on a sub-par Western inspired finale for Arnold which lacks punch, and by which point the audience doesn’t particularly care about the outcome of Breacher one way or another. With such an unlikeable role for Arnold, they should have taken it all they way to the edge. Instead they go half way and what could potentially have been at least a memorable Arnold role (in an otherwise rudimentary film) becomes something forgettable.
Filled with a relentless barrage of groan worthy dialogue, there are few redeeming features about Sabotage, aside from Arnold’s best efforts. The action is okay, but it’s kind of very minimalist and mostly done with hand-held. The attempts to take this very seriously and realistically (despite often being very contradictorily silly) mean most of the action is much of a muchness, aside from a half decent car chase.
Sabotage is ultimately a blot on Arnold’s CV and something that will likely be forgotten in the next few years. It lacks the repeat value of even some of his worst films from back in the day like Raw Deal, which despite not being great, at least played to Arnold’s strengths. The whole production felt and looked like a middle of the road straight to video film. Perhaps it’s the start of that slippery slope that will see Arnold bypassing cinemas altogether in the near future. Even as a die hard Arnold fan and apologist, there’s very little about Sabotage I can recommend.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ / Movie: ★ ★