Sabotage continues Arnold Schwarzenegger’s well heralded return to film after a lengthy departure for the political scene. For a lot of us, he never stopped being The Arnold of the late 1980’s and 90’s golden age of action films, and we cross our fingers and hope with every announcement of a new title that we will be returned to the glory days of films like Terminator, Predator, and Total Recall. Training Day and End of Watch Director and Writer, David Ayer, certainly boasts an impressive action film resume, but is Sabotage able to construct an interesting story, carefully balance the tropes and clichés we all expect from films of this genre and return Arnold to his former glory?
Schwarzenegger stars as John “Breacher” Wharton, the head of a covert team of DEA agents tasked with infiltrating Mexican drug Cartels. This elite task force boasts an excellent cast of A-list talent including Josh Holloway, Terence Howard, and Sam Worthington. After an ill-fated cartel raid, the team find themselves at the center of a six month long internal affairs investigation by the DEA for corruption and theft, when ten million dollars is discovered missing from the confiscated Cartel pay load. When members of Breacher’s team start getting picked off one by one under incredibly gruesome circumstances, he enlists the help of Homicide Detective Caroline, played by Olivia Williams, to find out who is hunting his team members and put a stop to it.
As the film unfolds the story attempts to mislead and misdirect the audience in ways that don’t ever really fully sell themselves. It tries to be complicated in order to make the revelation and payoff of the climax hit hard, but the misdirections are too undeveloped, unbelievable, and largely nonsensical to be effective. The plot is dragged along by a series of lucky coincidences, absurd assumptions, and character motivations that just don’t make much sense. Schwarzenegger is undoubtedly the film’s star, but his character spends about ninety percent of the movie in a supervisory role that keeps him at a distance from the action and doesn’t allow him to break through as the primal strong man character that we expect of him. The rest of the characters fall similarly flat. We want them to be hard core, edgy, tough, and charismatic enough that we can love them as those archetypes, but they just can’t seem to get there. The film is entertaining enough for a single viewing and if you like gore then Ayer does not shy away from the films R rating, but the action scenes themselves are louder than they are well developed and it all seems forgettable in the long run. Sabotage sells itself as an action film but ends up being more of a gruesome thriller trying desperately to stuff itself into the pages of a Cormac McCarthy story.
By Angela Colgan – Former MovieFloss Critic