Genre: Action, Crime, Drama
Directed by: David Ayer
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sam Worthington, Terrence Howard, Olivia Williams, Josh Holloway
The only thing more eye opening than David Ayer’s insistence on spraying every inch of his latest crime thriller with excess amounts of blood, is the bizarre haircut of his miscast leading man. Since returning to the screen, Arnie has proved himself more than capable of poking fun at his image, but this may be a joke too far. So distracting is his grey and brown Barnet that it’s almost a relief when he travels to Mexico wearing a wicker cowboy hat towards the end. His lengthy screen career has seen him battle murderous robots and dangerous predators, but trying to convince an audience he can be a serious actor while sporting such a ridiculous comb-over may well be The Governator’s greatest battle yet.
From its opening moments, Sabotage is a film firmly rooted in the darkest pits of despair. We first see Schwarzenegger sitting in silent misery, his face locked in an eternal scowl, while the video of a woman being tortured plays in front of him. He’s playing John ‘Breacher’ Wharton, who becomes embroiled in a deadly game with a mystery killer after he and his team loose $10 million they robbed from a cartel safe house. As the bodies begin to stack up, Breacher becomes suspicious that the murderer may actually be one of his team and that he may be next.
This is the forth film to be directed by David Ayer, a man whose career thus far has mainly been built on substandard gritty actioners that happen to be driven by sympathetic central characters. The problem here is that from the moment we find ourselves accompanying Schwarzenegger’s team of rough and tough DEA operatives, it’s a desperate struggle to find something remotely likeable about any of them. The script, a collaboration between Ayer & Skip Woods, is an unending cesspool of misogynistic dialogue that’s spat at each other by this unpleasant band of gun-toting brothers.
The second-rate performances do little to enhance the shoddy writing. Both Sam Worthington and Joe Manganiello aim for powerfully intense, but simply come off as offensively aggressive. Mireille Enos manages to achieve a callous and clichéd performance when trying to be layered and poignant. Terrence Howard and Josh Holloway are sadly all but forgotten about. While Olivia Williams is demoted to walking around with a nonplussed expression as her partner, played by Harold Perrineau, feebly tries and fails to inject the film with some much needed humor.
Worse than all of this though is the narrative, which curiously manages to take a conventional plot and make it incessantly convoluted. With so much needless backstory included, the pace constantly slows to that of a snail’s. It’s after these moments, when Ayer starts to feel the tempo truly drop, that the director quickly includes a scene of violence so unnecessarily grotesque it eventually borders on the ridiculous.
The most truly disappointing thing about Sabotage though remains its leading man. Arnie has made his share of indelible stinkers, but never has he been anything less than watchable. His macho-charisma has always managed to so easily hold your interest; it eventually becomes frustrating when you discover just how boring you find him here. Burdened with a complicated character arc that just doesn’t fit his tongue-in-cheek style, Schwarzenegger is reduced to moving from scene to scene with the same stock facial expression, mumbling plot points to both Williams’ FBI agent & the audience. The real problem is that you’re still not very likely to understand what the hell is going on, and it’s even less likely that you’ll care.