Director David Ayer, fresh from the critical success of gritty cop drama End of Watch, welcomes Arnold Schwarzenegger back to the action genre but is his return worth the wait…
The latest “Geriaction” outing from Arnold “I’ll be back” Schwarzenegger sees an undercover DEA taskforce bust up a drug cartel whilst attempting to steal $10m for themselves. However, somebody in the team double-crosses them and the $10m goes missing. The department then hauls the team in and places them under suspicion, and even though they can’t find the money and pin anything on them, the team falls apart as a result. Now, the head-honcho (Arnie) attempts to get the old gang back together to do something about it. However, they soon find themselves being assassinated one by one and the bodies start piling up.
The plot is completely preposterous and merely opens the gate for an absolute car crash of a film in which things blow up, bodies are nailed to the ceiling, and severed intestines are splashed around in ever-widening pools of blood, even though the film itself is rated 15! Even though he did an outstanding job with End of Watch, director David Ayer merely makes a fool of himself here as he tries to hide the silliness of the plot by unleashing massively insane levels of testosterone: kicking doors down, huge pump-action shotgun violence, and over-the-top carnage. The result is simply dull. The violence is just absolutely nuts, it doesn’t progress the story at all and is tacked on for no apparent reason, other than to be included only when nothing is happening on screen.
All of the team are just referred to by their nicknames, and they are literally known as “Grinder”, “Monster”, “Smoke”, “Neck”, “Pyro”, “Sugar” and “Breacher”. Those names are so embarrassingly and laughably bad it makes them sound like as if they’re auditioning to be the new Spice Girls but in Militarized, gung-ho fashion. We’re meant to believe that these are real people with real problems, situations and conflictions, except they’re not. They are about as two-dimensional as the characters in a Michael Bay movie. Olivia Williams plays the strangest role in the entire film as she’s struggling with the ludicrously hard-boiled dialogue, which as a result, reduces everyone to the level of crass and absurdist caricature.
At the centre on the film is Arnie, and whereas Sylvester Stallone, despite much ridicule, had acting chops as demonstrated in films like Cop Land, Schwarzenegger appears to have worsened with age. He has sadly lost all the wit and charm he had before he became “the Governator”, and this is demonstrated at the beginning of the film where we see him watching a video of a horrible act being committed (the result of which torments him throughout the film). This is meant to set him up as a tortured character, yet his grimaced facial expressions couldn’t register any emotion to the point where you can’t tell what he’s feeling nowadays: pain, envy, angst, grief, joy, terror, laughter, sorrow, anger, sadness, confusion or orgasm. Who knows, who cares? All I know is, I now can’t hold much hope for him in the upcoming fifth Terminator film.
The only good thing about the film is Mireille Enos and her electrifying, scene-stealing performance as team bad girl Lizzy. She’s the only character you are interested and involved with, and Enos is brilliantly feisty; plus she’s actually funnier than anyone around her. She is the sole reason to go and see this film, and every moment she’s on screen, you’d think the whole film would pull itself together by the strength of Mireille Enos being a great, ass-kicking, screen presence, but when she’s off the screen, the film goes back to being a complete dirge.
The fantastic Mireille Enos’ aside, Sabotage is a complete mess of a film. Arnold Schwarzenegger is terrible, Olivia Williams is sadly disappointing, the plot is preposterous, the violence is ridiculous, the character names are caricatured, and the tone is completely all over the shop. Arnie is definitely back indeed…