Sunday, April 26, 2015
SCHWARZENEGGER SWEEPS: Sabotage (2014)
The Last Stand,” though it’s already developed a cult following. “Escape Plan” also underperformed but, speaking strictly for myself, I thought it was surprisingly great. The third of Arnold’s comeback movies in two years was “Sabotage,” an extremely gritty crime thriller that also failed to connect with audiences. While I have reservations with the movie itself, it’s a very interesting choice for Schwarzenegger and shows that the aging action icon is willing to take risks in his old age.
The film follows a team of DEA Special Ops agents, expert drug busters and crime fighters, with nicknames like “Pyro,” “Grinder,” “Monster,” “Smoke,” and “Lizzy.” Led by John Wharton, nicknamed “Breacher,” the team decides to take a cut for themselves. While raiding the mansion of a drug lord, they make off with ten million dollars, at the price of one of their team member’s lives. A year later, after an extensive government investigation that nearly gets them all fired, something unexpected happens. Someone is killing off the different team members in especially gruesome ways. At first, a drug cartel takes the blame but soon, the gang begins to suspect each other. Breacher, teaming up with a female homicide detective, looks to get to the bottom of this. And how do the killings connect to the brutal murders of John’s family by the cartel years earlier?
up-coming “Suicide Squad” movie.) “Sabotage” is pretty bro-tastic. From the beginning, the movie is full of colorfully profane language and heads exploding from high-powered rifle rounds. Each of the characters is introduced swearing, yelling, and killing. The scenes of the gang hanging out, training, playing video games, enjoying the sights of a strip club, or at a barbecue, are a bit hard to take. The characters are abrasive, to say the least. The macho posturing can be obnoxious but “Sabotage” quickly develops a theme. As suspicion rises among the team, they begin to turn on each other, proving there’s no honor among thieves. The reveal of the killer drives that point home even further. It’s a rough story but a valid one.
Maybe the reason “Sabotage” failed to connect with audiences, aside from its generic title, is that the trailers disguised the fact that the movie is as much murder mystery as gritty crime flick. The film was originally entitled the equally generic “Ten,” as in “Ten Little Indians.” The entire middle portion of the movie is devoted to unraveling who the killer is. Just as the action scenes are extra bloody and punishing, “Sabotage” piles on the gore during the murder scenes, pushing the movie to the edge of horror. A trailer, and its one resident, is left in the path of an on-coming train, an intense sequence. A body is found nailed to a ceiling, the guts trailing below, the floor covered in blood. A dismembered body is shoved in a fridge. More then the violence, the movie is a genuine whodunit. A lot of time is spent analyzing the evidence of the case, hairs and fingerprints left behind. The mystery involves in an natural way, drawing the viewer in.
To go along with its excessively gritty screenplay, “Sabotage” is also full of effectively intense action. Ayer’s direction is interesting. Some of his tricks are distracting. During one shoot-outs, he attaches the camera to the barrel of a gun as it goes off, which doesn’t entirely work. More effective are the various scenes of the team working together, entering buildings, sweeping corners, and blowing away enemies. This is best illustrated when the gangs go to town on a dirty apartment where a cartel is hanging out. Bullets rip through the wall and bodies are bloodily blasted back. In the last act, “Sabotage” really finds its groove with a fantastic chase sequence. A high-light of this is Arnold in the back of a pick-up truck, carrying a giant assault rifle, wrap-around sunglasses on his head. As he dives behind the cab of the truck, returning fire, it seems like the action icon has never lost a step. The chase scene also ends in a truly shocking, and thrilling, explosion of violence.
As a movie-movie, “Sabotage” is probably only worth a half-hearted recommendation. It’s an uneven film, for sure, and it’s not exactly the most friendly watching experience. The movie’s overly self-confident macho bravado leaves the viewer with a hangover. It’s a pretty decent mystery and a better action film, so it earns props for that. As an Arnold movie, however, it’s a must-see. The aging action star pushes his typical persona into some new, fascinating territory, giving one of his best performances in years. [7/10]
[THE SIGNS OF SCHWARZENEGGER: 2 outta 5]
 Performs Ridiculous Feat(s) of Strength
 Says, “I’ll be back.”
 Shows Off Buffness
[X] Unnecessarily Violent Opponent Dispatch
[X] Wields A Big Gun or Sword With One Arm
So what's next for Arnold Schwarzenegger? His most recent release is "Maggie," a character-driven zombie film that is seemingly a departure for both the star and the undead genre. Mostly though, Arnold seems destined to return to previous dry wells. This summer, there's a new "Terminator," which is going to especially absurd heights to justify casting the 67 year old as an immortal robot. After that, Arnold has promised a new "Conan" adventure and even a sequel to "Twins." Whether or not those will provide the aging Austrian with a twilight years hit, or if they'll even be watchable, remains to be seen. Personally, even if he's not as buffed or spry as he used to be, I'm happy to have Arnold back. The world feels safer somehow.
Thus concludes SCHWARZENEGGER SWEEPS. It was a lot of fun and I'm already planning a follow-up project for later this summer. Until then, it's back to podcasts and Director Report Card, both of which will have me discussing Arnold again sooner rather then later, as well as other stuff. See you soon.