Sabotage (2014)

*. Can we feel sorry for Arnold Schwarzenegger? His post-gubernatorial film career hasn’t been much to write about. After cameos in The Expendables and The Expendables 2 he headlined The Last Stand, Escape Plan, and Sabotage. Were these movies that anyone wanted to see?
*. The thing is, none of the big ’80s action stars could act. They were just a screen presence, and in the twenty-first century their appearances became a male version of the Grande Dame Guignol of hagsploitation. We are relieved when Stallone and Schwarzenegger keep their shirts on now, though I was impressed at the weights we see Arnie lifting in the gym scene here.
*. Kyle Smith got in a good crack about Arnold having “reached the shaky-cam-and-hoodies stage of his career” in Sabotage, but what registers is the disjunction between the hoodie and the face, which now looks like a piece of beef jerky peering out from a cave. It is, if I can say it without seeming cruel, a bit grotesque.
*. Nobody seemed to like Sabotage very much. There were a lot of complaints about how brutal the violence was, but it didn’t strike me as being more extreme than usual for this genre, at this time. Meaning there are lots of splatters of CGI blood.
*. But maybe people were troubled by the bleakness of the plot, which has Arnie playing John “Breacher” Wharton, “a drug-war god” who heads a team of DEA toughs. They seem to be a tactical squad, but are also described as undercover agents. I thought these were two different things, but what do I know? I also thought they talked way too much when clearing a house, but again I’m not an expert on these matters. I assume director David Ayer, whose métier this is, knows better.
*. The plot has the team stealing $10 million in cash during a raid on a drug lord’s McMansion, but then having this prize stolen in turn out from under their nose. Later, the team begins to get killed off one by one. Is this the revenge of the cartel? Or an enemy within?
*. That might have made for a decent mystery plot but it goes nowhere here. I take it that somewhere in the publicity material the story was likened to Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None because the connection is made in a lot of the reviews. Don’t be fooled by this. There is no connection whatsoever.
*. Instead of Christie I was sort of hoping a serial killer was stalking the team, making this into an action-horror crossover. Or maybe the Predator was back. He took out a cartel at the beginning of Predator 2. Alas, no such luck. What’s really going on is a lot less interesting.

*. Don’t be thinking the title is going to give you any clues. The original titles were Ten and Breacher. But the first was taken and the second would have probably confused everyone. So instead they went with Sabotage. There is no sabotage in the movie. They were hoping to be able to use the song of the same name by the Beastie Boys in the marketing, but in the event permission was denied.
*. Apparently the studio also cut the movie quite heavily. Rumour has it the original cut was close to three hours. I don’t think the longer version was likely to be any better.
*. There were also changes made to the ending. Various endings were shot, most of them darker (but not sounding any better) than what we got. Instead we get a dull coda that offers partial closure on a subplot involving Breacher’s mission of revenge on the cartel that, you know, killed his wife and child. Apparently this has been eating away at him like, you know, “a cancer in his soul.”
*. Once again Mexico is a hell of corruption, lawlessness, crime, and violence. Stallone would venture into these same dirty streets just a few years later in Rambo: Last Blood. Another ill-considered retirement project. Guess it’s time to build that wall, America. If you really think it will do any good.
*. The team itself are introduced as a bunch of the usual yo-bros who drink a lot, go to strip clubs, get tattoos, but have each other’s back in a firefight. Or at least some of them do. I couldn’t stand any of them. Are we supposed to root for these goons? They’re even less likeable than the meatheads in Den of Thieves. A movie that at least established that roles like this can be safely handed over to Gerard Butler now.
*. So no, I don’t feel sorry for Arnold. If you want to extend sympathy to anyone for this grotty mess, extend it to Mireille Enos and Olivia Williams, with the former in particular really giving her all in a lost cause. There’s no way she could save this movie on her own, but damn she has her game face on.

14 thoughts on “Sabotage (2014)

  1. tensecondsfromnow

    I think he looks good for a man in his 70’s. But yes, the ‘shaky-cam and hoodies’ phase is not one I’m rushing to see, Escape Plan and the Last Stand were enough….the must be better scripts coming through his letterbox…

    1. Alex Good

      True he’s in good shape for his age. But looking good in your 70s is still a bit removed from anyone wanting to see you in various states of undress. Hell, I wanted Tom Cruise to keep his shirt on in The Mummy.
      I wonder if the scripts coming in the letterbox are no good, or if they all get transformed through committee re-writes.

      1. tensecondsfromnow

        The video of Arnie talking about his background he released a few weeks ago was better than any of his films for some time; I think it would be worth finding a more personal project than this generic Willis in freefall mode.

        What are you talking about, seeing me in various state of undress? That’s not happening…we’ve been though it, end of story.

      2. Alex Good Post author

        Wait. This movie was 2014. When do you think the 21st century began . . .
        Are you having trouble remembering dates? When to take your medications? You can arrange to have a home-care assistant drop by and help, you know.

      3. tensecondsfromnow

        Bookstooge is trying the same ‘nursing homes’ put downs, and it’s not working for him either. I’m younger, smarter, fitter and doin the do like Betty Boo, so suck it monkeys! Ha!

  2. Bookstooge

    Dark Fate and Expendables 3 was the last time I saw Arnie in a movie. I was really hoping that somehow he’d hand over the reins of the Terminator franchise but no actor has been able to pick them up. Which is sad 😦

    All that to say that I have no plans on ever watching this, not even for free on prime…


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