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Digesting the lowest rung of pop culture so you don't have to!
Skip Woods and David Ayer are the two men behind the latest Schwarzenegger film, the action/heist Sabotage. These two have been involved with some of the dumbest movies in the history of Hollywood, so it’s no surprise that this movie is also terrible. Don’t go see Sabotage. Really, don’t. It’s not a good film – it is a bad film… a really, really bad film, even. It is not even “so bad it’s good.” It’s just bad. Bad writing, bad direction, bad pacing, bad story, bad plot, bad acting, bad everything – Sabotage sucks. I can’t even say it’s disappointing, because I wasn’t even particularly looking forward to this film. Just avoid it at all costs. Instead of Sabotage, I would rather recommend several great direct-to-DVD/VOD movies (like the awesome Ninja 2: Shadow of a Tear). If you’re still here, you can read on I guess. But don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Sabotage is the story of John “Breacher” Wharthon (a bored Arnold Schwarzenegger) and his team of elite undercover DEA agents, each of which has a dumber nickname than the last. “Monster” (an unrecognizable Sam Worthington), “Sugar” (a slumming Terrence Howard), and “Grinder” (True Blood’s Joe Manganiello) are just a few of the badly nicknamed agents who work alongside of Breacher. After a complex operation (that results in the death of a fellow agent) nets them a score of hundreds of millions in drug money, Breacher orders his team to hide ten million of it for themselves. When the group later returns to collect the cash, it is mysteriously gone. Now under investigation by Internal Affairs, Breacher must clear the names of his men and recover the stolen cash. Complicating matters are the mysterious murders of his friends and associates. No one is safe and everyone is paranoid.
This movie wants to be really, really cool. It wants to be Training Day meets Reservoir Dogs meets Taken meets Heat. Dialogue mainly consists of people talking about drugs, using the F-word, making lewd references to having sex with women, and various other “tough guy” clichés. Literally every DEA agent in this movie is also some variation of the “loose cannon” cop cliché as well. Manganiello and Worthington both continually try to outdo each other for craziest on-screen portrayal of a cop ever. There is no way that any of these people (not even Mireille Enos’ Lizzy, a character the writers didn’t even bother to give a nickname) would ever inspire trust in the citizens they are sworn to protect. They are constantly beating up bystanders, pulling guns on each other, using drugs, and basically doing anything they can do to appear more like ex-cons than police officers. Schwarzenegger is the father figure in the group and acts as a surrogate father to Worthington’s Monster character, but neither of them is likable enough to care about their relationship.
The film also has a habit of killing people off in the goriest, least believable manner possible. Sabotage doesn’t know if it wants to be a gritty police procedural or a gory serial killer film. There’s a kernel of a good idea in Sabotage, but Ayer and Woods are so incompetent that even its better moments are still bad. For example, there’s a sub-plot about Breacher’s family being kidnapped and tortured by the cartels in Mexico (which cartel? Doesn’t matter). This could have been a moment where the audience truly began to connect with and understand Breacher’s horrible actions throughout the film, but it is completely bungled by the filmmakers. Instead of being heartfelt, his relationship with his son just comes off as both corny and cringeworthy. That Breacher spends his nights re-watching the video of his wife’s murder over and over again makes him seem more like a psychopath than a sympathetic victim of a horrible crime. There are very few redeemable qualities in any of these characters.
I’m not surprised that Sabotage has done extremely poorly in the box office, where it will probably close with just about ten million dollars against a budget of 35 million. It is an ugly film that is hard to watch in a lot of places. Sure, the gore is pretty bad but the film is harder to watch because of how incompetent its makers are to be totally accurate. The script is full of generic “tough guy” clichés and nonsensical story twists (I’m not even sure who committed the first two murders honestly). There isn’t a realistic, sympathetic character in the entire 109-minute running time of the film. Schwarzenegger’s post-gubernatorial career has been miss after miss with the exception of the Expendables franchise. I can’t imagine he’ll get many more chances after yet another major flop. But he certainly deserves better than Sabotage, one of the ugliest, least pleasant films I’ve ever seen.