Barney augments his team with new blood for a personal battle: to take down Conrad Stonebanks, the Expendables co-founder and notorious arms trader who is hell bent on wiping out Barney and every single one of his associates.
An elite DEA team raids the safe house of a drug cartel and hide $10 million in the plumbing. When they go back to retrieve the money it is not there. The team is under investigation for the missing $10 million. Then after a couple months the investigation is lifted. The team trains together again and then celebrates at a strip club. Then one of the team is murdered. He wakes us in his RV on railroad tracks. Then a second team member is nailed to the ceiling in his ceiling. The third team member is gunned down at his remote cabin. There is a female City of Atlanta investigator in charge of the murders. After investigating the cartel angle, the twisted truth comes to light.
I love Schwarzenegger, but this is one of his worst movies.
"Sabotage" looked amazing on paper, and at one point early on in production, it was one of my most highly-anticipated action films. First of all, you've got David Ayer coming fresh off the critical and commercial success of "End of Watch," one of the best cop films in recent memory; then you've got a pretty good supporting cast (Worthington, Howard and Manganiello are fine enough for the kinds of roles they're playing here). But mostly you've got Arnold playing his least quintessential role -- what I mean by this is that, over the years, even in his more dramatic fare, Arnold has always enjoyed self- posturing and falling back on his reputation when he plays characters. There's nothing wrong with that, but at a certain point, the wink-wink, nudge-nudge stuff gets a bit repetitive; I thought "Last Stand" was a fun spaghetti western, but it was Arnold playing an older Arnold, complete with the "I'll be back" puns and jokey homages to older films.
What excited me about "Sabotage" was that it appeared Arnold had taken a decidedly un-Arnold role, which is to say that most any other aging, dry actor could have taken this on. From the haircut to the makeup (grizzled and riddled with tattoos), this was NOT Arnold playing Arnold. Apart from one throwaway line about a character's "48 percent body fat," this is the first time - maybe since the original Terminator
that Arnold has attempted to play someone other than himself, really,
unless you count failures like End of Days, but even then he had a bit of the tongue-in-cheek stuff going on (and the film was crap to boot).
But what made it even more interesting was that, at the same time, the movie shared the whole Agatha Christie and-then-there-was-one plot device that "Predator" made use of. So it was kind of an interesting thing -- we've got a similar set up (an elite gang of mercenaries being picked off one-by-one by an unseen foe, with Arnold left trying to defend himself and his men) but a completely different approach in both tone and character.
With that in mind, I'm very sorry to say that Sabotage not only is a crushing disappointment, but ranks with some of Arnold's worst movies. I mean, I don't know how to describe it other than... this film left a really bad taste in my mouth.
As for Arnold? I love the guy, but maybe this is why it was best for him not to have attempted to play characters much beyond his own image. He tries, but his more earnest line readings are often pretty stiff and unnatural, and it must be said: he's just not really that believable in the role. Chalk it up to the accent, the mediocre line delivery, or the lack of chemistry with his cast members, but there's just something missing here, and as the film drags on you begin to realize how awkwardly cast it is with him in the lead. That pains me to say because I'm a fan of the guy and I was really excited to see him play a more unusual role, and thought it was a wise career move on his part to move beyond the wink-wink roles like Expendables and Escape Plan, but... maybe I was wrong.
But maybe it's not just Arnold. There's ultimately something very crass and callow about this film, and it's not just because it's overly violent, but rather, I think, because of how gleefully it tends to display the violence. It's not that strong violence bothers me, but compare how it was used in Predator to how it is used in Sabotage. Part of it may be the contrast between the ultra-realistic violence (think End of Days with the gritty hand-held style camera work and realistic- looking bullet wounds) and the absolutely ridiculous action sequences in the film (the movie's car chases are pretty poorly executed and unbelievable).
I don't know. I wanted to love this movie. It ended up being so distasteful to me that I couldn't even enjoy it as a guilty pleasure, and it lacks the goofy retro charm of something like Escape Plan so ultimately it just comes across as a forgettable attempt at a modern action thriller with a bungled approach both in front of and behind the camera. Given the talent involved this is definitely one of the biggest "What went wrong?" head-scratchers in recent memory. A shame, because if you look at this film on paper it reads like it could have been one of the Austrian Oak's finest rather than one of his worst.
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