March 27, 2014

SHOWBUZZDAILY Film Review: “Sabotage”


SABOTAGE:  Not Even For Free – A Bloody Waste

SABOTAGE is a lot bloodier than you’re expecting.  A lot bloodier.  I mention this upfront because although an R-rated Arnold Schwarzenegger vehicle carries with it a certain likelihood of violence, the level of gore in Sabotage is more like what you’d see in a horror movie than an action-adventure.  The constant parade of mutilation is actually distracting–it pulls you out of the story.  Which may be the idea.

Co-writer (with Skip Woods)/director David Ayers has the script for Training Day and last year’s End of Watch to his credit, but Sabotage is a much more gimmicky piece of work.  Schwarzenegger is Breacher Wharton, grizzled head of an elite DEA undercover squad with a tragedy in his past.  His team’s ranks are filled by a remarkably strong cast:  Sam Worthington, Terence Howard, Mireille Enos (who seems to be having the time of her life playing a role more Kill Bill than The Killing), Joe Manganiello, Josh Holloway and Harold Perrineau.  When we meat them, the squad is preparing a raid on a druglord’s mansion that’s also a pretext for the team to grab a chunk (literally) of the dealer’s giant pile of cash for themselves.  But the money almost immediately vanishes, and the team starts getting itself horribly murdered off.  Olivia Williams plays the local cop on the trail of the killer.

It’s Ten Little Indians meets Friday the 13th, as one by one, the expert, well-trained officers are slaughtered.  If you apply standard least-likely-suspect analysis at the start and ignore the red herrings Ayers sends swimming by, you’ll probably guess the culprit and the motive fairly easily–not because it makes any kind of realistic sense, but because where else is the movie going to go?  The pleasures of a movie like this are supposed to lie in the tension and growing paranoia of the prospective victims, but they’re all so unlikable, and the script is so over-the-top, that it’s tough to enjoy.  Ayers and Woods don’t remotely have the Tarantino-esque kind of verbal flair needed to establish such extreme characters, and only Enos’s crazed Amazonian really breaks through–the rest are more screaming, cursing nicknames (Monster, Grinder, Neck, Sugar, Pyro, Tripod) than people.  Schwarzenneger, for his part, is relatively low-key, still an impressive presence, but not really able to carry off the more subtle intentions of the character, and there’s little chemistry with Williams, with whom he plays a lot of his scenes.

Sabotage is diverting for a while, and Ayers slams briskly from dead body to dead body, until the movie becomes overwhelmed with its own yecchiness and indulges in one dumb twist after another.  It has a perfectly good (if idiotic) ending, but then keeps on going, to an epilogue that’s overwhelmingly unnecessary–it feels like a contractual requirement.  Schwarzenneger has had a tough time in his post-gubernatorial comeback so far, and Sabotage is unlikely to do much more than The Last Stand or Escape Plan.  (He does have a reasonably sure hit in the upcoming Terminator reboot, although how that picture will explain a Terminator in his late 60s is anyone’s guess.)  Such a strong cast should have had more to do than Ayers gives them; the title might as well refer to the script.



About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."