After his 2012 surprise hit End of Watch, David Ayer (End of Watch, Fury) is back to direct Sabotage, along with a big cast that includes Arnold Schwarzenegger (The Terminator, The Last Stand), Sam Worthington (Avatar, Clash of the Titans), Joe Manganiello (Magic Mike), Terrence Howard (Iron Man, Prisoners), Josh Holloway (Lost) and Olivia Williams (Sixth Sense, Rushmore).
After Breacher (Schwarzenegger) leads his elite DEA Task Force team in a successful raid of a drug cartel’s safe house, his team is executed one by one. Everyone suspects each other while trying to figure out who is to blame, and why.
Each character is given a performance that matches the group of somewhat dirty cops, from Arnold’s hardened legendary leader, to Marielle Enos’ delirious drug addict. The team has a comradery that really works for a team that is not particularly likeable, but isn’t meant to be. Even the homicide detective on the case seemed to be a great secondary character at first, though she is later given more of a spotlight where I feel she is a bit overused. Several characters are not around for long, as some are killed off pretty early, but they were used fairly well in the time they were given, with the only exception being Terrence Howards “Sugar”, who really doesn’t do much of anything.
There seemed to be a struggle as to whether they were going for an action movie, or more of a thriller with a deeper plot. The best parts to are when it starts to show emphasis on the mystery of what happened, who did it, and why, but the film doesn’t take the time necessary to flesh these ideas out. The focus instead is put on action that would have meant more if we were given enough setup for it to pay off, shifting what could have been great to being just okay. The final scene is a great action set piece for Arnold, and is the best result of the action focus, but it doesn’t seem to fit with the rest of the film.
Evidently, the original script was that of a thriller, focusing more on the mystery an taking its time to set everything up. But the original, nearly three-hour cut was not accepted by the studio, who requested a different ending and cut out large chunks to make a shorter, more straight-forward action movie. I feel that this is the main issue for Sabotage, and that if we could see the director’s cut, though we may lose the action movie vibe the final product tried to fit into, we would have gotten a more complete, realized film that really did something original. Instead we have a decent action movie that feels a little jumbled.
If you are a Schwarzenegger fan you may get something out of this, as it is one of his best performances since his return to acting. If you love action movies, are willing to go in without high expectations, and can handle the strong violence, you should enjoy it as one with Schwarzenegger in a different role and a bit of Ayer’s directing style.