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Friday, March 28, 2014

Sabotoge 2014 * * 1/2 Stars

SabotageDirector: David Ayer
Year: 2014
Rated R
Rating: * * 1/2 Stars
Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sam Worthington, Josh Holloway, Terrence Howard

After taking a 7 year hiatus from the world of acting (as we all know, he became the Governor of California), Arnold Schwarzenegger has had the sad misfortune of losing a lot of his box office clout. His new film Sabotage opened today and I'm not sure that it has a chance of setting the world on fire (ticket receipt wise of course). I do know this though, as a DEA commander overseeing a bunch of high strung, highly volatile (did I mention gun toting) DEA task force operatives, Arnie gives probably one of the best performances of his career. Instead of spouting off one-liners and offing tons of bad guys, he decides to provide a more dramatic, more deepened turn here. He dons an interesting haircut and a grizzled look. And oh yeah, he still remembers to chomp on cigars throughout (it's an iconic image anyway so why not). In hindsight, this is not your typical Schwarzenegger flick. It's like nothing you've ever seen him in before. What surprised me is that the complexity of his role is something that I hadn't witnessed since his bout in 1990's Total Recall.

Featuring big name actors who look almost unrecognizable in their parts (Sam Worthington and Josh Holloway come to mind) and an extremely effective use of Atlanta based locales, Sabotage begins with Arnold's character John "Breacher" Wharton. The opening frame shows him watching a snuff film of his wife being tortured. I can't give anything else away only to say that this is the main plot element that ties the whole running time together. In the next couple of frames, we meet his crew of misfits. They are all in dire need of a shower. Added to that, they are hard up, emotionless, arrogant foot soldiers primed to make money infiltrating a drug cartel safe house. When an interrogation occurs, pushers are murdered, and the money somehow goes missing, there is a federal investigation followed by a killing spree targeted at everyone in Wharton's crew. The investigation in question, is headed by officer Caroline Brentwood (effectively played by Olivia Williams). I read a review in which a critic labeled Sabotage as a whodunit. I would agree with that only to say that when the culprits are revealed, the suspense factor is lazy and lacking. The so-called whodunit element happens too quickly and I expected more from an aggressive screenwriter like David Ayer.

Speaking of Ayer (he also serves as director), his script as expected, goes over the top with its outlandishness and frequent use of the F word. It does some of the actors justice only to fail most of the others. There are times where it settles down to tell a story. By then it's too late. The filth on screen dominates the proceedings and causes things to not elaborate as they should.  The plot when you think about it, is relatively thin even for an Ayer-like picture. He opts for the extreme gore factor along with some offensive dialogue causing everything else to take a back seat. The horrific ways in which people die in this movie don't seem relative, they just seem you know, for show.

Then there is the ending which resembles a modern day Western. It felt abrupt and quick minded. I wanted more since I'm again, familiar with Ayer's work. As a writer, he likes to prolong his conclusions like in Street Kings and Training Day. With Sabotage, he provides his normal trademarks as a director only to somewhat hold back a bit. If anything, he accomplishes the feat of squeezing out a solid performance from Schwarzenegger which to my chagrin, almost saves the proceedings.

In conclusion, the definition of the word sabotage is as follows: to deliberately destroy, damage, or obstruct something especially for military or political use. The film safe to say, accomplishes this by glorifying violence and the bludgeoning, disturbing images that result from it. If anything, see it as a welcoming back party for every one's favorite Austrian, AAARRRNNOLLD! Here's hoping that "he'll be back" for something better cinematically in the future.

Written by Jesse Burleson

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