Movie Review: Sabotage

One-liner: This relentless, trashy and star-studded action thriller squanders its true potential in the closing stages.

It’s funny how some movie titles seem to become self-fulfilling prophecies, allowing their overriding meaning to seep into the film. On the surface, Sabotage is a dark, trashy and intense Arnold Schwarzenegger action thriller with a couple of name stars thrown in for good measure. However, as it builds to a crescendo, it seems as though it’s actually working to sabotage itself.

The story follows a special DEA operations task team, who penetrate a drug cartel’s lair to steal and split $10 million. When the money goes missing, the authorities start to clamp down on “Breacher” (Schwarzenegger) and his team begin to crack as the circle of trust gets smaller as each member gets picked off.

Sabotage is like a trashier version of SWAT. The tactical team isn’t as clean-cut, acting like a band of surly pirates in all their skull tattoo and army regalia. Their crass sense of humour, constant cursing, blood lust and devil-may-care attitude makes them seem like bad guys, but they’re killing for the good guys in a similar vent to Elite Squad.

Sabotage has also been influenced by End of Watch, which is not surprising since both films come from the mind of David Ayer, the same writer-director who wrote Training Day. The grisly kills, blood-spattered action set pieces and loose, experimental camerawork hint at this, but the team chemistry isn’t as convincing.

sabotage movie

“I’ll… be… well, actually this is a comeback!”

The Ten Little Indians style mystery propels this clunky actioner, unfortunately the only real sabotage that’s happening is self-­sabotage. Just as Ayer reels us in for what has to be an interesting outcome, the cards all get dumped on the table and the film devolves into one character’s obscured agenda, which could have been a better perspective to start with.

Then it seems unsure how to end… opting to transplant the story into an almost entirely new scenario. Along the way, this trashy action mystery thriller holds suspense, but drifts into stagnant waters as it tries to make some awkward gear shifts. Having names like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sam Worthington, Terrence Howard, Mireille Enos and Olivia Williams adds considerable weight to the film, yet they don’t seem to add up to the sum of their muscle.

Schwarzenegger’s more serious than usual and doesn’t have that much of his typical wink-wink magic going on. Sam Worthington and his facial hair works surprisingly well in this film, although he seems underplayed. Terrence Howard seems to be out-of-place and throws in a by-the-way token performance. Ironically, the real machismo and tenacity comes from Mireille Enos as the no make up bad-ass of the team and Olivia Williams as a no-frills, married-to-the-job detective.

Sabotage isn’t a terrible film – it’s laden with great ideas, some serious star power, a compelling bent copper story and is purposefully trashy. The genre mash-up makes for compelling viewing and there’s enough dumb fun in the way of dopamine-inducing gore, violence and derogatory humour to appeal to our base instincts. It starts with promise, but the process just doesn’t amount to much, making for a disappointing ending.

The bottom line: Misfire

splingometer 5