Arnold Schwarzenegger seems to be getting his Mojo back with his latest offering, Sabotage. His performance in this David Ayer directed film is on par with his earlier work, pre-politics. The movie is one of those cinematic treats that begins as one type of film and then segways into another before changing lanes yet again. Co-written by Skip Woods (The A Team, Hitman and Swordfish) and director Ayer (Training day, End of Watch and S.W.A.T.) the action is pretty relentless and quite satisfying.
One surprising thing about Arnold’s participation in this film is his resemblance to the late Lee Marvin. It could be the Dirty Dozen haircut that Arnie sports that helps sell the “look” and although Schwarzenegger has similar facial structure to the late Marvin, it was not just the features that reminded one of Marvin, but a certain look around and in the eyes. Rather oddly, this helps the film as the character Arnie plays seems to rely less on the hype of the actor and more about what’s going on behind those tired and blasted eyes.
Sabotage opens with a video tape of a blonde woman, who is tied up, being tortured by masked men. At the conclusion of the tape the film does a “fast forward” to 10 months later. Enter Arnie as John “Breacher” Wharton who is enroute to a cartel mansion where he has one DEA agent inside and the rest of his crew are booted and suited for a takedown. Breacher mentions that it’s payday as he and his DEA team prepare to breach the mansion’s defenses.
Once Breacher and his team get in the building it turns out that money was their only objective. Siphoning off a certain amount for themselves and destroying what is left. Later the gang go underneath the mansion to collect their booty, which was put down the sewer from the houses toilet, only to find it gone.
The whole team are suspended and investigated for six months until the government “give up” and let Breacher and his team of deadly DEA agents get back together. Once they regroup, someone starts killing the team members off, one by one, in very gruesome ways. Breacher uses the resources of a local cop Caroline, played brilliantly by Sixth Sense and Dollhouse actress Olivia Williams, to find out who is murdering his crew.
There were a few surprises in this film. Sabotage allowing Arnold Schwarzenegger to get his mojo back after his comeback vehicle Kim Jee-woon’s The Last Stand did so poorly at the box office being the first. Second was the odd resemblance between Arnold and the late Lee Marvin, and while on the subject of cast looks, Sam Worthington was so beefed up, aka pumped up, for his role as “Monster” he was almost unrecognizable.
Each of the “crew members” was played capably by the actors in the cast. It was shame that the gifted Max Martini (Pacific Rim) did not have more screen time.This actor seems to have more than his share of “also ran” parts which is a shame as he always gives his character’s a realism that is admirable. Sam Worthington, as usual, knocked his character out of the park in terms of believability. Mireille Enos as team member Lizzie, was just the right amount of sleazy and strung-out mixed with deadly to garner kudos for her performance.
Unfortunately for the rest of the actors in Breacher’s team, they were just this side of two dimensional. The local cops, “Caroline” and “Jackson,” who get caught up in the action, worked brilliantly as the comic relief and their easy “give and take” relationship onscreen was the most realistic part of the film’s story. Mad props to both actors and the writers of the movie who included these two rounded characters.
One further surprise was the film’s plot. Certainly it was original, but the editing sequences did sometimes cause the storyline to get almost, but not quite, convoluted. In terms of plot this story delivered. The mixture of money, drug cartels, disgraced DEA agents, local cops and loose threads being all tied up neatly by the film’s conclusion make this one of the best Schwarzenegger films since his dismal “comeback.”
In at least one area, the film relies on the Arnold Predator formula. A team of highly specialized “bad asses” who are lead by the ultimate “badass” who controls them all. In this instance the formula works, if for no other reason than the inclusion of a female who is actually part of the group and not an add-on (as in Predator).
The cinematography was crisp, clear, and well lit. Even the night sequences were viewable without having to squint at the screen to see who was who. The stunts were impressive and the fight choreography was spot on. In a nod to the lead’s advancing years, there was only one scene which alluded to his “superior” strength. This was a nice touch and a welcome change from the “superhuman” qualities that have always been a part of Arnold’s hype.
Sabotage is almost a return to what could be called “vintage” Arnold Schwarzenegger without the usual “I’ll be back” mythos. The film star has got back his mojo, to an extent, and this movie should please his fans and theater goers who want a break from all the “tween” films on offer at the moment. This is a grownup film, rated “R” with lots of violence, gore, and action. The audience at a preview appearance of the film all reacted well. With a good age range of members, a surprising amount of which who were females of various ages, most laughed in all the right places and applauded when the feature finished. Rated R for extreme violence, Sabotage opens March 28 across the U.S. Check out the trailer below.
By Michael Smith