Since his return to acting post-Governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger hasn’t exactly been embraced with open arms by the action junkies of the world. His films are fun, but they aren’t the boffo box-office juggernauts they once were, and, along with his compatriots Sylvester Stallone and Bruce Willis (all of whom have found success as a package deal in The Expendables series), represent a dying era of action films audiences find cheesy and retro. Schwarzenegger’s latest, Sabotage, is certainly a brutal throwback to the ‘80s actioners of Schwarzenegger’s youth, and while there's some fantastic work from the females of the film - a rarity in these movies, both back then and today - the overly convoluted plot and gratuitous violence alienates many watching.
John “Breacher” Wharton (Schwarzenegger) heads up an elite DEA task force with his team getting carte blanche to do what they want. When they steal $10 million dollars in cartel money, the group thinks they’re on a one-way ticket to easy street. Unfortunately, the money goes missing and members of the team start dying, one by one.
Loosely, and by "loosely" I mean "everyone says it’s adapted somewhat," based on Agatha Christie’s Ten Little Indians, Sabotage is director David Ayer at his schlockiest (probably letting off steam until Fury comes out later this year). This is a movie so riddled with testosterone all the men have bland adjectives as code names (for every “Grinder” or “Monster,” there’s a guy named “Neck.” I’m not kidding) and endless talk about farts and junk. It’s not unexpected for the type of movie, and thankfully Ayer and co-screenwriter Skip Woods do the right thing inserting some females into the cast who are actually more entertaining than the men.
Honestly, there’s a movie worth creating starring Mireille Enos’ Lizzy and Olivia Williams’ agent, Caroline. Both women are bad-ass in their own ways, equally holding their own against the men and in several sequences, transcending their male compatriots and doing their own thing. The opening sequence where Enos’ character jumps from her back onto her feet before jumping out a window is more physically daunting than the men kicking a door in and shooting something. Similarly, Caroline has a one-night stand with Breacher, and yet she’s the one who makes a point of saying they’re not dating! It’s progressive, but I wanted more! Who cares about the handful of bland, non-descript action heroes. Let’s allow the ladies room to kick ass and take names.
Enos and Williams aside, Sabotage suffers from its titled ailment. The plot starts off with a group of corrupt DEA agents who end up getting what they deserve in the first fifteen minutes when their stolen money is then stolen. From there, the plot veers into Mexican cartels, a murder mystery, and vengeance against the group who killed Breacher’s wife. These pieces should fit together, and the script tries desperately to scramble towards a conclusion where that's true, but everything comes off more convoluted than it should be. The murdering of the agents is brutally glorious, ranging from someone ending up in their frig to another agent nailed to their ceiling, and the mystery of who is behind it all keeps the film moving briskly. However, there's blood and gore just for the R-rating's sake. Once the murder mystery is wrapped up, there’s still fifteen minutes of plot resolving the original conundrum: Who took the money? By then, it really doesn’t seem that important, and the conclusion is there to put our leading man, Schwarzenegger in the spotlight as a cigar-chomping bastion of ass-kickery.
I’ve already heaped a healthy dose of praise on Enos and Williams. Let me remind you, they’re the highlights of the film. Schwarzenegger is how he always is, no better or worse. He’s played in the teacher/mentor role as Breacher, teaching a whole group of mini-Ahnolds how to group up big and burly one-day. Unfortunately, he sticks out like a sore thumb, or like the weird haircut he’s rocking. Too often, he’s sitting around dropping wisecracks and generally not doing much. The heavy lifting’s left to the other actors who are all one-dimensional in their own right. Despite possible action leading men like Joe Manganiello, Sam Worthington, and Josh Holloway, none of them distinguish themselves enough to lead the movie or act as a worthy comparison to Schwarzenegger.
As for what’s included on the Blu-ray: The video and audio are on par with the latest digital releases and this looks beautiful on an HD TV. The bonus content is rather mediocre, consisting of a handful of deleted scenes, a few expanding the screen time for Enos and Williams. They’re worth watching if you’re a fan of both ladies’ characters. There are also two alternate endings that don’t do much to change the movie’s flaws, but are interesting perspectives and final images to leave you with. You also have an eight-and-a-half minute making-of featurette with the standard stock interviews about collaborating with Ayer, filming on-location in Georgia, and the like. The Blu-ray also has the requisite digital copy to transfer to your iPad, and other electronic devices.
Sabotage devolves into a movie with no heroes. Antiheroes are great, and cinema needs more of them, but there’s nothing heroic about these people short of their job title. We never see them do anything construed as heroic, so we’re stuck with the anti. Enos and Williams are the high points, especially because characters like them are marginalized or objectified in these movies, and I wish the script did more to make this an anti-action film. Sabotage is a gory ‘80s throwback with Schwarzenegger taking a backseat and transforming into the twilight years of his career. If you’re a fan of any of the actors, or want a mindless action film, it’s worth a rental.
The Sabotage Blu-ray Combo Pack includes a Blu-ray, DVD & a Digital HD copy and goes on sale July 22, 2014.