This past weekend I was planning on seeing The Raid 2. Naturally I was absolutely hyped. A sequel to one of my favorite action movies of the past decade? Hell yeah! As it turns out living in Arizona is kind of a bummer because it turns out the March 28th release date was for the limited release in California and New York. I still needed my action movie fix. Luckily a new Schwarzenegger movie was coming out and who better to see than a classic like Arnold?
After busting a cartel’s safe house Breacher (Schwarzenegger) and his DEA team are screwed out of a payday and put on ice. 6 months later they are reinstated but one-by-one are killed off. Is it the cartel going out for revenge? Is it another loose end they didn’t seem to catch. It’s a race against the clock for Breacher and a federal agent to figure out who it is before the team is killed.
Now I think this could have worked. The story is fine and with talent like David Ayer (Training Day, End of Watch) behind the script there was a lot of potential. For all intents and purposes this should have been the perfect pairing of writing and stars. I’m sad to report that it just didn’t seem to mesh. The biggest problem is that Sabotage didn’t seem to quite know what kind of movie it wanted to be. Arnold, for the most part, plays Arnold. He’s the cigar smoking, one liner saying bad ass we all know and love. This seems to be his post-Governor schtick and does it well. What doesn’t work is putting it into the violent, gritty world of a David Ayer movie. It’s kind of like putting Commando Schwarzenegger in The Hurt Locker. Yeah it sounds fun but it just throws the tone of the whole movie off.
My other main issue lies with the supporting cast. Not that the acting was bad, that was fine. My problem is that they totally botch the idea of them being anti-heroes. Instead they just come off as a group of unsympathetic douchebags. It works on something like The Wire or The Punisher because they were multifaceted characters that weren’t just character traits. In Sabotage they all come off as dude bro caricatures with no redeeming qualities. A couple of them grow more sympathetic in the end but by then I don’t really care if they live or die.
Not all is lost though. While the action conflicted with the Arnold style I do think it was handled pretty well. It was shot better than typical US action movies with the emphasis hitting hard without shying away from the violence. In fact Sabotage is probably the first gory movie of the year which certainly made this genre fan quite happy.
At the end of the day I think of Sabotage as a failed experiment. Arnold as the over-the-top, bombastic action star is gold. David Ayer’s mix of gritty crime drama and dark comedy is gold (F the critics I dug Street Kings). It just doesn’t seem to work when combined. Maybe it could have worked if they leaned more one way or the other in tone. Maybe it needed Beastie Boys music. Whatever it was Sabotage just didn’t have it.