A film starring Arnold Schwarzenegger comes with a decently hefty amount of expectations, due to his filmography being completely full of films that helped establish his role as the guy who has blown more buildings up, delivered more one liners, and muscled his way through more bad guys than any other badass working today. When an actor gets that insanely huge amount of baggage, it’s hard for viewers to think of him as anything other than that, causing any testing of the waters to be less successful and well received. Thankfully though, Schwarzenegger is able to rise above that and give fans a very unexpected yet interesting performance in David Ayer’s gritty as hell film SABOTAGE.
Following a covert operation that ends with 10 million dollars of drug cartel money missing, DEA Agent Breacher (Schwarzenegger) and his hardcore team of undercover agents are put under investigation, with each member being accused of stealing the money for themselves. Soon after the investigation ends and nobody is found guilty, the team is reinstated and everything seems to be heading in a good direction, until someone begins to take each member out, in ways that rival the goriest of slasher films. Where the film goes from there is into a whodunit-like thriller, as opposed to the typical Arnold action extravaganza.
While the film’s marketing made it feel a bit familiar, the dark aspects of the film not shown in its trailer are what fill the film’s running time. What makes it work so well, is in that change of pace for Schwarzenegger, giving viewers a large mystery to solve as opposed to letting them know everything up front. There aren’t any Terminators this time around, instead you are given characters that don’t quite fall into that good or bad definition. Everyone has something to hide (including Breacher) and when each member begins to get gruesomely murdered, you’re not quite able to rule anybody out as the possible culprit, including most of the Agents themselves. It’s that hardcore approach, the grey area of human beings that director Ayer (END OF WATCH) and co-writer Skip Woods (TRAINING DAY) are so good at portraying, one in which nobody is completely innocent, and everyone has dark skeletons in their closets.
While it’s pretty entertaining and full of scenes that teeter on becoming a full on slasher-like gorefest mystery, it’s not without its faults. The casting of Olivia Williams (THE SIXTH SENSE, RUSHMORE) as an Agent assigned to investigate the murders just doesn’t quite gel, with her British accent covered up with a bad Southern one. While bad accents are typically not too hard to forgive, it’s pretty distracting at times, taking you out of the movie, and the focus off of one hell of an otherwise great cast. Performances by Joe Manganiello (TV’s TRUE BLOOD, MAGIC MIKE), Sam Worthington (AVATAR, CLASH OF THE TITANS), and especially Mireille Enos (TV’s THE KILLING, WORLD WAR Z) give the film a solid support, while Schwarzenegger’s Breacher gives Arnold fans a different kind of role to take in, letting him do his thing at being a tough as hell mystery of a character.
It’s that down and dirty, lack of many one-liners approach that makes SABOTAGE work. While THE LAST STAND and THE ESCAPE PLAN relied on their attempts to recreate that old-school Schwarzenegger formula, this one throws a bloody knife into said formula, and save for a scene at the end, bypasses that “me against EVERYONE” approach, that while entertaining for the majority of his films, can become a bit silly at times. Albeit being a little flawed here and there, it’s an interesting and entertaining 110 minutes, definitely something to watch.
SABOTAGE hits digital HD July 8th and DVD/Bluray July 22nd via Universal.