Film review: ‘Sabotage’ is an arresting disappointment

Film review: ‘Sabotage’ is an arresting disappointment
Arnold Schwarzenegger is Breacher, a member of an elite DEA task force, in the new film, “Sabotage.” Photo by Robert Zuckerman

Even with Schwarzenegger leading the charge, “Sabotage” bites the dust.

Judging by the previews, you’d expect Schwarzenegger’s action/whodunit hybrid “Sabotage” to be not half bad. But man, the end result turns out to be an explosive disappointment! Not only does this latest effort from director David Ayer stagger in terms of plot, dialogue, acting, and characterizations, but it also suffers from unapologetic racism and a clumsy mash-up of genres. How ironic that “Sabotage” would end up sabotaging itself.

Breacher (Arnold Schwarzenegger) commands an elite DEA task force consisting of Monster (Sam Worthington), Sugar (Terrence Howard), Lizzy (Mireille Enos), and Grinder (Joe Manganiello). Each and every one of them is talented at what they do, as evidenced by their recent high-stakes raid on a drug cartel safe house. But the teammates soon find themselves getting whacked one-by-one by a mysterious assassin, and begin suspecting that the killer could be within their ranks.

It becomes clear not too long after the opening raid sequence and first few deaths that “Sabotage” doesn’t know where to go. The plot has no direction, no sense of pace, and no build-up toward a climax that proves to be the opposite of exciting. If you ask me, the film tries too hard in making up the rules as it goes along, only to get lost in its own cluttered mess.

“Sabotage” can’t make sense of combining the whodunit and action genres together. It’s certainly an intriguing concept, and in the right hands, it could truly light up the screen. That being said, whatever bread crumbs laid out for us to follow get lost in the immense firepower, and the action-packed reveal at the end lacks surprise and coherence. How disappointing indeed!

The dialogue — if it can be referred to as such — consists of little more than profane exclamations, all of which do nothing to enliven “Sabotage.” I blame screenwriter Skip Woods for this problem; his track record (e.g., “Hitman,” “The A-Team,” “A Good Day to Die Hard”) proves just that. Figures. Amusing how poor scripts and bad dialogue always work in tandem.

As for the acting, while I’ve seen worse, this is by no means workable. “Colorless” best describes Worthington, Howard and Manganiello here, since neither man displays a unique personality or any hint of depth.

All they do is look tough and act tough, not to mention contribute little to the team aside from the basic “Let’s do this!” attitude.

Schwarzenegger, who plays the team leader, shoots well and strikes well, just as we recall from his glory days in the ‘80s and ‘90s.

Unfortunately, his genuine attempt to imbue Breacher with a sympathetic edge crumbles under the weight of other internal issues plaguing “Sabotage.” As a result, his gritty transformation ends up a wasted opportunity.

It’s really the women who stand out among the male-dominated ensemble cast. Mireille Enos proves capable of fighting alongside the big boys, and Olivia Williams is adequate in understanding the complexity of crime scenes as every movie cop should.

However, neither involvement can prevent “Sabotage” from getting gunned down by its own faults.

Since most of the performances are below the minimum action film standards, we learn next to nothing about the characters.

Well, that’s not entirely true; Schwarzenegger’s background is tragic and brutal, but appears too late to make a difference. And while it would’ve been better to imbue Williams with more than the typical “intrepid criminal investigator” mold, the most we get from her is nothing we haven’t seen from those weekly TV police procedurals.

Last but not least, a fatal error made by “Sabotage” is its unrepentant racism, particularly towards the Hispanic community.

With only cartel members dominating the screen and not a single likeable Hispanic person making a meaningful appearance, the film condemns itself to public outcry. I, for one, cannot and will not condone any film that refuses to recognize its explicit racist attitudes.

“Sabotage” is chock-full of mistakes, too many to justify its presence on the big screen.

Perhaps if it had undergone more refinement during production, the outcome could’ve been different — at least, in a good way. Sadly, we won’t see that happening.

MPAA rating: R for strong bloody violence, pervasive language, some sexuality/nudity and drug use.

Run time: 1 hour and 49 minutes

Playing: In general release



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