Director David Ayer returns to his favorite subject, the corrupting power of authority, in “Sabotage,” a film about a team of DEA agents caught up in a scandal involving stolen drug money and a federal investigation.
The film opens with the team, led by John ‘Breacher’ Wharton (Arnold Schwarzenegger) raiding the home of a crime boss. During the raid, the team hides $10 million, eventually leading to an investigation of the team. The money is taken before they can retrieve it, and someone is murdering members of Wharton’s team.
To give a way more of the plot would require the typical “spoiler alert” warnings, as the film begins twisting and turning itself to keep the plot moving. “Sabotage” is entertaining and features some truly creative action scenes. Most notable is a scene which plays out as a series of back and forth cuts from the murder being committed to Wharton’s discovery of the crime scene. But, as the film progresses, the script seems to lose its way. It ends on such a bizarre note; I wasn’t sure if I should cheer for Wharton or grieve for him. Maybe it was just time to leave.
Script troubles aside, most of the film works just fine. Credit goes to director Ayer, who directed last years’ cop drama “End of Watch” and wrote “Training Day” for crafting a movie that makes us forgive some of its lapses in logic. Ayer’s co-writer, Skip Woods, wrote “A Good Day to Die Hard,” “X-Men Origins: Wolverine,” and many other passionless movies. “Sabotage” seems to be trying to merge Ayer’s realism with Woods’ big Hollywood movie approach. I would have preferred a movie that looked even deeper into the corrupting effect of the drug underworld on law enforcement.
The cast, however, rises above the script, especially Schwarzenegger. I admit, I am a big fan of Arnold. I followed his career as a bodybuilder when I was a kid. I spent a good chunk of my life watching his movies. However, in the two “Expendables” films, he seemed wooden, perhaps from too many years sitting in the governor’s chair. But those appearances were just cameos. I enjoyed “The Last Stand,” but, again, he seemed a bit stiff, physically and creatively. “Escape Plan” showed Schwarzenegger returning to his pre-political charm, playing a tough but likeable inmate. In “Sabotage,” Schwarzenegger is tough and hard, not in the near self-parody way of his Regan-era films. His Wharton is a man that has suffered and Schwarzenegger infuses his character with an edge I have never seen in the actor.
Olivia Williams also stands out as a homicide detective investigating the deaths of Wharton’s team members. Williams, 45, lets her age show. She plays a person who has worked hard in law enforcement. Schwarzenegger’s leading ladies have tended to be very self-determined women and Williams does not disappoint. Her character is never the victim in this film. She can handler herself.
I enjoyed this film. While there are some script troubles and some odd pacing, it is an engaging film with plenty of violence and nudity to entertain audiences looking for some thrills. I just wish it spent more time revealing the world of drug enforcement.