A more appropriate title for the former governor of California’s latest star vehicle might be I Know What You Did Last Drug Bust. Instead the movie’s production company apparently wrote a selection of generic terms that convey a terse and masculine energy, threw them in a hat, and pulled out one at random. There’s no actual sabotage in Sabotage.
Arnold Schwarzenegger plays John “Breacher” Wharton, the “legendary” leader of a SWAT team for the Drug Enforcement Administration. After he and his colleagues conspire to skim $10 million off the top of a mountain of money they find during a raid of a drug lord’s estate, the pilfered cash goes missing. They don’t know who’s taken what they’d rightfully stolen.
Months later, someone begins killing members of the team one by one, in gruesome fashion. Who is it? A drug cartel out for revenge? Someone in the DEA who knows about the theft and believes they should be punished for their sins?
Reasonably intelligent audience members may solve the mystery long before Arnold does. Maybe I haven’t made it clear yet: This not a good movie. Herewith, its five most excruciating elements:
1) Olivia Williams’ accent. The pale-skinned English actress is cast as an Atlanta homicide detective charged with investigating the murders of Breacher’s team. Her attempt at a Southern accent is painful, and her tossing off phrases like “boo yah!” may cause you to cringe in embarrassment on her behalf.
2) Handheld camera work. This herky-jerky style of filmmaking can be used to great effect in action sequences, conveying a documentary style that increases the viewer’s sense of being in the midst of the action. However, director David Ayer has fallen too much in love with the technique, jostling our viewpoint even as we’re just watching two cops walk and talk down an office hallway. He’s also obsessed with pushing the camera in for the tightest of close-ups. For too much of the film’s climactic car chase, we can’t see anything other than Terrence Howard’s face.
3) Piles of guts. The aftermath of the film’s murder scenes look like outtakes from a George A. Romero zombie movie, shots lingering over piles of human organs for several beats longer than necessary.
4) Gratuitous nudity. This is less a complaint about naked flesh in and of itself than a reminder that there’s something especially discomforting about watching a movie with shallow, big-budget Hollywood ‘80s-style action-movie values — topless lesbian makeout session for no reason whatsoever, over-the-top violence — made in a low-budget, indie-film method. It’s caught between its ambition and its soul, satisfying neither.
5) Chevy product placement. Like a rock that reminds us Sabotage isn’t a work of the same art-form practiced by Griffith, Kurosawa, Bergman, and Hitchcock. It’s a fungible piece of marketable “entertainment” that will soon find its rightful place in the bargain bin at 7-Eleven, right next to the microwave burritos.