Having officially jumped back into the movie world post-politics with the likes of The Last Stand, Escape Plan and The Expendables franchise, to varying degrees of success, the legendary Arnold Schwarzenegger is back with Sabotage (previously titled Ten and then Breacher), a violent actioner-turned-whodunit from Training Day and End of Watch writer David Ayer.
Schwarzenegger plays Breacher, the head of a tough-as-nails elite DEA task force whose job it is to infiltrate drug organizations and then forcefully take them down. On one mission they seize the opportunity to skim $10m off the top of the cartel’s pile of cash, hiding it in the sewers to collect later. However, they discover that someone has decided to steal all the money for themselves. After a scrutinizing 6 month long investigation, the team are allowed to get back to work. But they soon find themselves targeted one-by-one for the cash that was stolen and suspicions begin to arise between the members of the group. Meanwhile they have a ruthless investigator (Olivia Williams) on their tails.
It’s basically The Expendables meets Traffic by way of Scream, functioning as a sort of macho action equivalent of a slasher movie with the members of the team being picked off by a mysterious killer. It gets more and more preposterous as it goes along, chucking in plot twists that make less sense the more you think about them. But, as has been the case with all of Arnie’s recent cinematic efforts, your best chance of enjoying is to not linger on the logic, or lack thereof.
The action is well staged, with less reliance on shaky cam and more focus on giving the violence impact. It’s indeed a film that falls over the fence into the gratuitous on more than a few occasions, reveling in and lingering on grisly disembowelments and gunshots to the head but one could argue that that more visceral style, gratuitousness and all, is a better alternative than the action without impact approach found so often in safer Hollywood action movies.
It’s not exactly the most sophisticated of films when it comes to dialogue or character. We first see the team members in a fast-paced attack on a drug lord’s mansion before being formally introduced to them in a police interrogation video. Actors like Sam Worthington, Terrence Howard, Josh Holloway and Joe Manganiello sporting names like “Monster,” “Sugar,” “Neck” and, “Grinder” should give you some idea of the tone the film is going for; at least the film seems to have some sort of grasp on its own ridiculousness. The friendly insult-filled camaraderie that comes along with them kicking down doors and taking out bad guys is what makes this a fun watch among the grisly misery though it doesn’t come close to making you truly care about them to the point of feeling emotion if and when one of them gets bumped off.
Sabotage is a film that feels ill-disciplined, too often spinning off topic into side plots that it can’t seem to keep track of and a general misjudged mix of schlocky action and serious drama that attempts to tackle themes of loyalty and violence begetting violence. But whenever the action kicks in, which is ultimately what matters most in this type of thing, it works like gangbusters; only the extremely disappointing missed opportunity of failing to use the identically titled Beastie Boys song during those scenes dampens the enjoyment. It dials down the po-faced expression and turns up the sly grin enough for it to be enjoyable for those willing to go along with its increasingly ludicrous plot.