Drugs. Sex. Money. Guns. Welcome to America! Following a prophetic image of a man with blood on his hands, we are launched within the first five minutes of “Sabotage” into all of the above including a not terribly convincing girl-on-girl tidbit to prime us for the onslaught of the next 104 minutes. There is a seamlessly executed DEA raid led by Breacher (Schwarzenegger) and his top-secret elite team of far too pretty and testosterone laden agents including a token female so aggressive you’d not know her gender but for her sports bra. Schwarzenegger has aged. He looks significantly older and paradoxically I found that comforting. He remains in remarkably good shape and is convincing as the major domo, his age gives him a much needed gravitas for the role. However, I found myself questioning whether someone who in reality is 66, no matter how buff, would be sent on a raid. And it bugged me. I had hope for “Sabotage” following the well choreographed raid scene and its creeping suggestion of what will go awry. It all seemed just a little too easy. This film is at its best when we are in the action and no one is conversing. Unfortunately…there is dialogue.
Writing convincing dialogue is an art and it is not a simple task. In this case director/writer David Ayer and his co-writer Skip Woods would have served the narrative far better if they could have let go of their need to make the characters sound like the meanest, toughest, most bad-ass eight people on earth. Straightforward, simple dialogue, kept to a minimum would have transformed “Sabotage” from a story with true potential of a double-double-cross which keeps you guessing just who has $10M of missing drug money, to a film lacking any originality and filled with such flat stereotypes that it’s hard to believe in anyone. Beyond that, sadly, it becomes laughable. Choice lines like “fingering the Devil’s pussy” and “Ammo is cheap. My life ain’t” make you cringe and wonder how the actors could actually choke them out. To top it all off, there is an F-bomb either preceding or finishing every phrase and utterance throughout the entire film. Instead of adding the desired force it trivializes everything said. Skip Woods has written a number of relatively successful action scripts and David Ayer wrote and directed “End of Watch” which was a particularity good and evocative police drama. Clearly the talent is there. My understanding is that the studio pressured Ayer to move the film in a direction and edit it into more of an action film than the thriller/drama he had envisioned. That is a crime. I accept that Arnold Schwarzenegger’s range is – how shall I say – fairly narrow and we all know what to expect from him, but there was the possibility of a decent film which was plundered, Arnold or no Arnold.
The supporting cast of Sam Worthigton, Joe Manganiello, Terrence Howard, Josh Holloway, Max Martini, Kevin Vance, Mark Schlegel and Mireille Enos work hard, a bit too hard. But they deliver the action, and if they are going to be covered with blood for most of the film (their own as well as other’s blood mind you…) at least they look good underneath it all. The film also delights in an enthusiastic display of fake entrails, brains and assorted bits of human body liberally tossed around. To its credit there are some good choices; Olivia Williams as the lead FBI agent on the case is well cast. She is an experienced character actor and is a grown-up, not a seamless, sexpot, too beautiful young thing. Her partner is played by Harold Perrineau who is always a pleasure to watch as he is affable and at the same time projects a stature which can deliver a verbal blow like a switchblade. When all the loose ends are finally tied up you realize that the premise of “Sabotage” was solid, just not the execution. Oh, and, be forewarned, you’ll want to clean your refrigerator when you get home.
Directed by – David Ayer
Starring – Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sam Worthington, Joe Manganiello, Josh Holloway, Terrence Howard, Mireille Enos
109 Minutes, Rated R
Originally written for ScreenRelish – check them out here!
Movie Review Sabotage