Wednesday, March 26, 2014


Sabotage is a gritty crime action thriller co-written and directed by David Ayer and starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sam Worthington, Terrence Howard and Olivia Williams along with TV hunks Josh Holloway and Joe Manganiello.
It is also, on the surface, an unusual film for Schwarzenegger who, despite a slate of upcoming sequels to his former big hits or franchises, is in the middle of a really interesting comeback. The criminally underrated Last Stand saw him try a little bit of an Eastwoodish turn as the old, tired, grizzled sheriff of a small town but still with all the humour and over-the-top action that used to be his stock-in-trade, Escape Plan saw him having tremendous fun in a bravado performance and stealing the film in his supporting role and in the upcoming Maggie he will be dipping his toe into the bloody and crowded waters of zombie films but with Sabotage it appears to be a first for Arnold: a, mostly, dramatic, serious performance, leading an ensemble cast, with, comparatively minimal action.

Arnie plays a tough as nails but quietly haunted and lost DEA Agent, whose special team of hard training, hard fighting, hard drinking and hard talking undercover agents are divided by an incident and investigation surrounding a missing ten million dollars. This fills the team full of mistrust, which only grows as they, individually, start showing up dead in a series of brutal, unflinching and hard R murders. Schwarzenegger must team up with Fed Olivia Williams and work out just what the hell is going on.

Sabotage is a film that is all about appearances. It appears to be a grainy, dark, violent and adult crime film which pulls no punches with language, nudity and gore but aspects of the plot are as generic as your favourite 80s or 90s revenge action film. We are told that Arnold's team are the best at what they do but we don't really ever see that as they appear to just be a bunch of loud mouth, alcoholic hotheads who happen to be armed. They also all appear to be innocent but maybe there's something else going on!
It's, also, a film that appears to be taking cliches from the past and turning them on their head and a film that appears to be clever, full of twists and reveals but, a few minutes out of the cinema, you have more questions than answers and any logic the script has falls away pretty quickly.
This, normally, in a wham bam, 80s throwback, action film wouldn't matter but structuring it the way they have and presenting it the way they have, demands you look into it a little closer and, when you do, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense.

One of the good things about the movie was definitely the fact that, from the trailer, I thought it would have that shaky-cam, grainy-video style cinematography that sadly passes for so-called "realism" these days and is meant to signal you're watching something edgy and serious but it didn't. The cinematography was pretty good and the action scenes, particularly, were clear, pleasing and watchable. There were a couple of moments where the camera would suddenly and needlessly be mounted on top of a gun or something silly but apart from that, very cool.
Another thing was Arnie and Olivia Williams performances, while the chemistry between them never really materialised like maybe the script called for it to, he has presence by the bucket load and she has the acting chops, so that you were always pleased when the film followed them.
Lastly it's violence and gore is joyously hard R, in your face, unflinching and even, at times, shocking. I wish it was attached to more enthusiastic and pleasing action sequences but that it was there at all, was a surprise.

Sadly though the movie has a lot of faults and I hate to write or report this as I really do think Arnie fans, action fans and thriller fans should go and see it, if for no other reasons but to make your own mind up and to see the Austrian oak do something very different in tone at least, if not in story. However, a couple of hours detached from the movie now and I just wish they'd told the story differently or it had been a different story. While I applaud anyone trying to come at generic material a different and new way, I don't think this did it successfully. There's a reason this kind of story has been told differently in the past, it's more satisfactory that way. Also it's full of plot holes which are covered only by the fact that, because we are meant to suspect everyone in the film, no one really has any kind of character to speak of. Their motives aren't quantified, explained or examined beyond very basic assumed reasons.
The second reason Sabotage is not the success or the film I hoped it would be, is that the team around Arnie are all arse holes and while Sam Worthington's character displays a little sensitivity and tragedy, quite well I might add, most of the time they are all obnoxious, swearing, ego fuelled, bickering imbeciles. I couldn't believe one of them had any more elite training than a low paid mall security guard and even if they did, not one of them seems to respect it. I understand the team in the film is meant to be divided by mistrust and devastated by the deaths of their team mates but there are more scenes of them visiting titty bars and drinking their body weight in booze than there are scenes of them kicking ass and taking names, which is a real shame and also annoying and grating.
Lastly, the film is also horribly misogynist. I can't, exactly, go into all the reasons why here but there aren't many glowing representations of women in the film, most of them are drug addled, whores or strippers. Not that the men are likeable and perfect either but they don't get anywhere near the bad representation that women do in the film. It thinks it combats this claim by having Olivia Williams' seemingly strong, intelligent character in there but it really doesn't once you see what happens.

None of these niggles, of course, have to matter. Despite all this stuff, I did enjoy the movie for what it was and it's definitely an interesting film for Arnie to have in his come-back cannon. It's nothing like I was lead to believe from the trailer though and it's not as clever as it thinks it is but disengage your brain and just go with it and there's a ton to enjoy. It's my least favourite of his films since 2010 though.
- The Kick Ass Kid

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