Macho macho man, that Arnold Schwarzenegger! Since his return to cinema I have actually enjoyed everything he’s been in. Expendables 2 (2012) was good fun – coming from someone who hated the first -, The Last Stand (2013) was absolutely a positive surprise with a very cool role for a very cool car in it – coming from someone who doesn’t even care much about cars -, and Escape Plan (2013) was just plain good entertainment, even better than what we’ve come to expect from them old war horses, Stallone and Arnie. Then comes Sabotage (2014), the most recent outing in Arnie’s latter-day career, and how does it measure up? Is it even better? Nearly as good? Or does it fall grievously short?
Well, a lot of critics have been hard on it. “Too brutal” is one of the phrases most often bandied around about it. I like good action movies, but I don’t like needless and overwrought brutality. Thing is, in this department, Sabotage is just as it needs to be. It’s not too brutal. You may go into it with fearful expectations of terrible scenes of death and torture, but it really isn’t worse than a lot of other fairly standard fare we saw in eighties action movies and current-day Asian cop and gangster movies. So no, I don’t think it’s too brutal. It’s edgy and entirely in and of its own chosen genre. There’s no problem here.
Of course, the movie does have a lot of F-bombs. I’m not an appreciator of profanity, but I have to say it didn’t bother me here. These guys were all a bunch of no-hope ass-hats and hard-asses and it’s believable that they would spout nastiness all day. It is. This movie wouldn’t be itself if it were otherwise. Some of the scenes here comprise nods to movies like Predator, and it works. There may be one-liners in Sabotage that will be remembered for as long as some of the ones in that movie. It has the potential.
How about the story, then? Well, Big Arnie is the leader of a team of DEA Special Ops. Guys, and one gal, who have seen a lot of action in their time. Disillusioned and used to bending or breaking all the rules. Killers with a federal license to mess things up. And they do. Arnie plays John “Breacher” Wharton, and the story opens with the team heisting and hiding 10 million dollars of drug cartel money, orchestrated by Wharton. Only, when they return to pick up the loot, it’s gone. Who took it? The cartel or someone on the team? Well, in short order someone starts killing the members of the special ops team. Who’s doing it? A police woman played (very well) by Olivia Williams is brought in to investigate.
The plot thickens and we find out about Wharton’s wife and son: they were kidnapped by cartel members some time earlier, and Wharton hasn’t been able to recover them. So he just might have some kind of hush-hush plan up his sleeve… That’s as much as I can tell you. The movie unfolds with exciting revelations and even more exciting action scenes, culminating in a great car chase. There’s even a teensy bit of romance, too. And of course a lot of bullets and dead bodies. Are you a fan of Steven Seagal? Chuck Norris? All the other action heroes who kick ass and take names and squirt testosterone all over the place? Then you will almost certainly enjoy this movie. It’s all-out hard-ass action and it doesn’t relent to let anyone catch their breath. It’s practically everything a decent, hardcore, old-school action movie should be.
The only real problem is the ending. Which I can’t talk about. But after the climactic car chase there is another sequence which just doesn’t provide the proper narrative closure. This may be a matter of individual preference, but it wasn’t quite enough for me, and it costs the movie one full star in my book. In a way the ending fits well with the overall theme of irredeemability; I might actually have to admit that it does. But I would have liked a silver lining to that cloud at the end. Oh well. If one just considers the car chase sequence to be where the movie ends, I think it works quite terrifically. Not a bad action movie at all. Not quite as good as The Last Stand and Escape Plan, but pretty good all told – in the same league as Expendables 2, only much edgier – and living up to any machismo-craving action fan’s expectations. Like action? Then you can safely let this movie entertain you.
Sabotage is out on DVD & Blu-ray 15th September 2014.
Dir.: David Ayer
Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mireille Enos, Terrence Howard, Sam Worthington, Josh Holloway, Olivia Williams and others.
Runtime: 109 min.