Sabotage is a a horrible, bloody mess. As a critic, I always try to say something nice about a film but every so often I’m dumbfounded by how bad a movie is and marvel how it could have been green-lit by the studio in the first place. Sure, Sabotage has a solid cast with the former Governator himself Arnold Schwarzenegger in the lead role as Breacher, the tough-as-nails (of course) leader of an elite DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) task force, but there’s not a single character in this film that’s pleasant, not one person that anyone will identify with.
We have the requisite cast of hyper-violent and aggressive misfits — including Monster (Sam Worthington, a standout performance in a muddy mess of a film), Grinder (Joe Manganiello), Neck (Josh Holloway), Sugar (a somewhat wasted Terrence Howard), Pyro (Max Martini), Tripod (Kevin Vance) and Smoke (Mark Schlegel) — but they’re all unpleasant and disposable characters. The desire was there, but the film never comes together as a quasi-military “band of brothers” movie.
Then there’s the bizarre role that Lizzy (Mireille Enos) plays in the film. She’s married to Monster but is such a horrible, foul-mouthed drug-addict loser that it’s hard to imagine how anyone would find her worth the time of day, let alone m attractive. And her story arc? Inexplicable.
Even director David Ayer acknowledges the problem in the film’s production notes when he explains “Breacher and his team aren’t exactly morally centered… it’s not necessarily clear who’s who at any given point”. Well yeah. But a film where everyone is in it for themselves and where the rallying cry of “we’re a family” is just wasted air because each person’s completely self-absorbed, that moral ambiguity means that we just don’t care about any of them.
The story revolves around Breacher, whose wife and son were kidnapped, tortured and murdered by one of the Central American drug cartels eight months (or is it two years? the film’s a bit fuzzy about its own internal timeline) prior to the opening scene. This weighs heavily on Breacher and while he still lives in their lovely, well-decorated home, he watches the snuff-film video that the cartel sent him of his wife being murdered over and over and over again.
The film opens with a hyper-violent drug bust that has the DEA team breaking down doors, shooting bad guys point blank, and stumbling across a palette of neatly organized cash. Hundreds of millions. So they steal $10 million and stash it to recover later. But when they show up late that night the $10 million is gone. The mystery of who took it — since it had to be someone on the team — is the key storyline, though when it’s revealed it’s not only obvious, but clearly demonstrates that the “we’re a family” mantra really was so much nonsense.
And then there’s the closing scene. I won’t spoil it, but will say that it’s laughably terrible. The chase scene through downtown Atlanta where people are shooting at each other with automatic rifles and unable to hit each other’s vehicles is stupid enough, but that last sequence? Again, how did this get green-lit for production?
If you want to watch a Schwarzenegger film with punch and some satisfying level of violence, go rent or stream The Terminator, Eraser or The 6th Day. But skip Sabotage. Even if you see it show up on the local pay channel or subscription service. You’ll thank me for helping you avoid this disaster of a film.