3 StarsSabotage may start with a violent opening sequence, but it is a slow burn type of action-thriller, the kind that Walter Hill once specialized in. Director/co-Writer David Ayer, who has made a living on law enforcement corruption pictures, again delivers another story about officers who straddle the line between protector and aggressor. Arnold Schwarzenegger appears to relish the opportunity to darken his screen idol image and even dons a cowboy hat by film’s end, a fitting wardrobe accessory that strengths the ‘western’ vibe of this stylized action-thriller.
John Breacher (Schwarzenegger) is the aging leader of the DEA Special Operations Unit. The team is made-up of mis-fits that are unable to gel with anyone outside the close-knit squad. Grinder (Joe Manganiello) is a hard-drinking motorcycle loving brute, Sugar (Terence Howard) is the smooth ladies, Monster (Sam Worthington) a former meth head with a mean streak, and Lizzy (Mireille Enos) his adrenaline seeking wife. The unit hits a cartel boss at his luxurious estate and attempt to make off with over 10 million dollars in drug money. Only thing is, someone has robbed the loot from the team’s stash house.
Coming under fire from their superiors the squad is disbanded while an investigation continues. Meanwhile, someone is picking off the member, one gruesome death after another. Are the killers Cartel members? Is the murder within the group? A local female homicide detective (Olivia Williams) takes an interest in Breacher and his band of odd bedfellows. Her determined search for the missing money and perpetrators sets her as a friend and foe for Breacher. As the corpses pile up it becomes clear that Breacher’s life is in danger and he must navigate dangerous territory solo, while also dealing with the politics of the department and that pesky investigator.
The pretzel like plotting is a bit convoluted in the early goings, but the strong second half redeems any missteps that have occurred. A fundamental problem with the screenplay is in making the characters so throughly despicable, dulling any emotional impact of their demise. Ayer as a director has reverted back to some of his bad habits from his early days, notably a tendency for close-ups and whiplash camera movements. He does elicit quality work from his star, who carries the movie on his once mighty shoulders. While Sabotage isn’t the best from anyone involved, it is worthy of a view if you can stomach the hard violence and coarse behavior on-screen.
Director: David Ayer
Stars: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sam Worthington, Olivia Williams