Arnold Swarzenegger stars in David Ayers’ new film Sabotage, and the results are, well, exactly what you would expect.  Since returning to film, Arnold has appeared in three and starred in two.  With Sabotage, this makes his third attempt to make an impact both critically and financially, since dominating in the 80′s and 90′s (at least commercially, nobody claimed he could “act”).  Teaming up with Ayers seemed like a surefire way to make a splash.  Sabotage makes this Ayers’ fourth directorial effort, with Harsh Times (2005), Street Kings (2008), and 2012′s End of Watch being his first three.  Having also written S.W.A.T.Training Day, and The Fast and the Furious, Ayers clearly has a formula that he adheres too.  Cops, especially corruption within departments seem to be the themes throughout his films, and Sabotage is no different.  Taking the visual aesthetics and color palette of End of Watch, Ayers brings the once (and still) electrifying leading man in Swarzenegger, and the results are a violent, shaky, cliché plot, but a cast that carries the weak points of the film.

After a career in politics, Arnold is officially back as the DEA task force squad leader John “Breacher” Wharton.  Breacher leads the squad consisting of James “Monster” Murray (Sam Worthington), Lizzy Murray (Mireille Enos), Julius “Sugar” Edmonds (Terrence Howard), and Joe “Grinder” Phillips (Joe Manganiello).  After the team busts a Mexican Cartel drug safe house, the team hides $10 million, with the intention to return to grab the money later that night once the smoke cleared.  When the squad returns to collect their money it’s gone.  Even worse, the DEA find out there is $10 million missing, but the team never folds under questioning.  After the internal pressure is off the squad, they re-team, but are soon faced with their actions as someone attempts to pick off the team one by one.  Together they must fight off the Cartel and the inner workings of their own system, in this violent, relentless look at personal motives, and what someone is willing to do for their end goal.

After two rather flat attempts at a comeback, Swarzenegger makes somewhat of a return to the films that made him the household name he is today,  At the age of 66, he’s not what he once was, and that’s alright.  He does his usual Arnold thing in Sabotage, and as a fan, it’s fun to see.  With a great cast around him, the story still focuses on Breacher’s character, and what is driving him.  Arnold does what he does, while a bit more slowly, effective nonetheless.  Sam Worthington was the standout for me as Monster.  Worthington is known for looking a certain way in the films he stars in, and in this one he’s almost unrecognizable.  Besides Arnold, Worthington was the other dominate performance, as the over-the-top macho, but well-intentioned Monster.  The other cast members do a more than adequate job, with Josh Holloway (Lost) and Joe Manganiello (True Blood) standing out as two more.  However, the performances are squandered in what many people may find a dumb, bloody, macho film.  While true, isn’t that what you’d expect?  Having said that, the story would have been better perceived if the violence wasn’t so over-the-top, but hey, it’s an Arnold Swarzenegger movie.

Ayers has proven that he has talent as both screenwriter and director, but with his newest effort, he seems to be imitating himself.  Visually, the film looks very similar to his last effort End of Watch, and while it worked then, it didn’t as much this time around.  The color palette worked, just the amount of fast cut/handheld camera didn’t feel as necessary.  He tried giving it the gritty look from his previous films, it just didn’t work this time, and could have benefitted from a few more thought out shots.  I love some over the shoulder shaky cam as much as the next guy, but Sabotage needed a different feel.  Aside from the visuals, the story felt very similar to S.W.A.T., with a lot of violence and grittiness added in.  Ayers clearly has an eye for moviemaking, he just needed to step back from this project a bit, and possibly more collaboration.

Sabotage is one of the better films in the post-political career of Arnold Swarzenegger, however the film never fully manages to materialize.  The plot was not the most unique, and by the end it almost wasn’t believable.  At the same time, this violent, dark, well-acted film will serve most what they’re looking for.  This is surely a movie that audiences will respond to, while critics may not.  People who have been waiting for Arnold to make a real comeback, will be pleased with this effort.  As long as you go into the film knowing what to expect, violence, violence, Arnold, violence, a decent cast, violence, and Arnold, then the movie will be enjoyable.  At age 66, he can still hold his own on screen; it’s unfortunate the movie didn’t end the way it could have.  Expect bad reviews, but if audiences go see it, then we’ll be seeing a lot more Swarzenegger in the future.

Sabotage stars Arnold Swarzenegger, Sam Worthington, Olivia Williams, Mireille Enos, Terrence Howard, Joe Manganiello, Josh Holloway, and opens in theater everywhere today.

About the Author

Peter Towe
Peter Towe
A graduate of UMASS Boston, I have successfully put off getting a "real" job, and continue to watch, produce, review, and obsess over movies. I lived in Boston while I completed my degree, and now live in Chicago trying the improv thing.