So once again we have survived.

Sabotage

tn_sabotageBListen all y’all, SABOTAGE is a great vehicle for Arnold Schwarzenegger right now. It’s a good mix of what you expect from him and what you don’t. It’s a movie that benefits from his Huge Movie Star presence. He can just walk in and the legendary badass backstory of his character, DEA squad leader John “Breacher” Wharton, manifests physically before our eyes. He can strut and bark commands and joke and you fully believe that his unruly team of trained killers – even big Joe Manganiello, who towers over him – respect, fear, and look up to him like he’s their dad.

I think this here is the perfect approach to Old Man Arnold: not making self-deprecating jokes like in the okay THE LAST STAND, but just being Arnold while proudly rocking a thick stripe of white hair around the edges. Yeah, I’m 66, who the fuck cares? I’m Arnold. Are you gonna be Arnold when you get to be my age?
mp_sabotage

On one hand, his name is John, just like such previous Schwarzenegger characters as John Matrix, Detective John Kimble, John G. Nicolay, U.S. Marshal John “The Eraser” Kruger, John Conan and John Mr. Freeze. On the other hand, he has a tattoo of a skull wearing a top hat on his neck. Most of his characters only have this on their ass.

Breacher is a traditional Arnold character in that he’s the best there is, a serious professional with a sense of gallows humor. But he’s different in that he’s not a hero. I’m sure he was once, but he changed for good after a cartel tortured his wife and son to death and mailed them back to him a piece at a time. He deals with the drama in a pretty creepy way: sitting in the dark smoking cigars and watching the video of the whole ordeal. Thinking about revenge, we imagine.

[By the way, I wonder how many envelopes you open before you figure out they’re all gonna be fingers and toes? Did they put fake return addresses on there to trick him? That’s just mean.]

In a flashback we learn about the time Breacher went to Mexico looking for the guy that did it. He never found the motherfucker, so who is the dead guy on the floor in the flophouse where he’s staying? We never find out. Heh. I’m sure there’s a good story there.

So now he’s disillusioned as hell and the story begins with his team raiding a cartel leader’s mansion and trying to sneak off with $10 million of his cash. The money disappears somehow, but they get lucky and the internal investigation goes nowhere, and they seem to be back to square one… except then they start getting horribly murdered one-by-one. Like, fucked up beyond-slasher-movie types of murders. Somebody’s not happy with them. I know what you did last drug raid.

At least one of the posters says it’s “from the writer of TRAINING DAY and the director of END OF WATCH.” Both are David Ayer, who is apparently still enamored of dirty cop anti-heroes. He gives the team plenty of macho banter and rowdy behavior in their filthy clubhouse (with Ronald Reagan/Rambo mashup poster on the wall – interpret how you will), their dangerous live-ammo training course or their favorite strip club, where the strippers seem to hate them and the security has every reason to.

I don't think it's necessarily bad to update a beloved story like this.
I don’t think it’s necessarily bad to update a beloved story like this.

Schwarzenegger’s fellow James Cameron lead Sam Worthington (who has previously worked with Schwarzenegger’s CGI double in TERMINATOR SALVATION) would be the problem child of the group if not for his crazy drug addict wife Lizzie (Mireille Enos). She’s a badass woman who holds her own in this boys club, forced to go in undercover as a ho but happy to toss off her heels, throw on her armour and get in on the action. She’s also the type of cop who, when she finds jugs of liquid meth during a bust, giggles, busts one open and takes a drink. She kinda steals the movie.

[Unimportant note: I wondered if she was somehow related to John Enos, an obscure actor who was in David DeFalco’s POINT DOOM and Dolph’s MISSIONARY MAN. Sure enough, IMDb says she is “a distant cousin.” She’s also married to Cameron from FERRIS BUELLER’S DAY OFF.]

Of course the team falls apart, but for a while they have fun together, and they have a good chemistry. In the opening raid there are so many offscreen quips it reminded me of ON DEADLY GROUND’s infamous ADR.

It’s a good ensemble. You also got REDBELT’s Max Martini on the team, MATRIX 2-3’s Harold Perrineau, IRON MAN PART 1 ONLY’s Terrence Howard, some guy from Lost, etc. RUSHMORE’s Olivia Williams plays the investigating officer as if channeling Annette Bening. Of course she’s 20 years younger than Schwarzenegger and the movie insists on hooking them up, but at least she’s an actress allowed to have wrinkles under her eyes, and it’s treated as her conquest, not his. The spontaneous fling of an in-control, liberated woman.

Every review I’ve seen praises the movie’s alleged sleaziness. I think that may be a little overhyped, nobody is gonna by shocked by anything here, but it definitely has an enjoyable rowdiness that sets it apart. Hats off to co-writer Skip Woods (THURSDAY, SWORDFISH, HITMAN, A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD) because THE A-TEAM and WOLVERINE are no longer vying for the tile of best movie he’s had his name on. I don’t know if that means he’s getting better or that Ayer ditched everything he wrote. Whoever wrote it this seems like David Ayer bluster without the lecture and with more awesome. Not long after the murder mystery gets stale it veers off in the kind of direction you sometimes wish an action movie would go, but never expect it actually will.

This has gotta be the best movie Schwarzenegger has done since at least TERMINATOR 3, possibly TRUE LIES (not counting his cameo in THE RUNDOWN). I know that’s not really saying much, but between this and ESCAPE PLAN he has plenty to be proud of in his post-political movie career, even though the box office didn’t notice. Congratulations, Governor, for re-establishing your relevance, artistically if not financially.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Thursday, April 3rd, 2014 at 12:40 am and is filed under Action, Mystery, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

48 Responses to “Sabotage”

  1. Damn, I thought his character was named John Sabotage.

  2. I’m really excited to see this, and would have saw it opening weekend, but for some unfathomable reason the distributors chose not to bring it to Canadian theatres. It’s just not showing in Canada! Literally the first time I can ever remember this happening with a non-foreign movie. I’m sure it must have happened, but I can’t think of an example.

  3. Vern liked this more than I did, though we both like what SABOTAGE represents re: Arnie’s 20teens Era.
    (I certainly won’t refer to “Old Man Arnold” so long as he can still out-curl me in the gym.)
    (and score with Olivia Williams.)
    (spoiler)

    David Ayer remains the shittiest writer whose work I usually find compelling despite its shittiness. He comes up with good mystery/twist/corruption/badass scenarios, but the language & characters he uses to fill in those scenarios to make them stories. . . gives me a headache. Ayer doesn’t know it, but he seems like he would fit in at a Juggalo festival. He & Rob Zombie should visit a tattoo parlor together and discuss a future collaboration.

    Most of Ayer’s visual/directorial choices here are solid, though. Can’t front on this stupid movie, since it seems like he’s sneaking some gloriously heavy R-rated shit past his producers. But the stupid, uh, love triangle at the end possessed zero believability, at least 3 of the characters are blandly meldingly interchangeable, and Breacher smiles & laughs at the most inappropriate moments. It’s a combo of bad acting & failed directationalism that Schwarzenegger doesn’t know to at least wait until his murdered brother-in-arms’ corpse is cold before he shrugs it off and makes jokes.

    On the other hand, Ayer had to modulate his movie so that it’s not 100% miserable, and he had to have early levity so that the climactic car chase machine gun carnage is allowed to be fun. So he gets a pass, I guess. I’ll even ignore the idiotic-badass live ammo shoothouse technique of having a live person in a back room where who knows how many 5.56 round ricochets could land. (Dry run or blank run, no problem, but my team always refused to train in shoothouses with mere wooden walls if we were doing live ammo.)

    However, I can’t forgive the sloppiness of the pre-Mexico end, when Breacher just ghosts away from the crime scene while the FBI agent (and many street cops) is standing *right there*. That part was in desperate need of a reshoot, and it’s a sad sign of laziness that Ayer’s editors & line producers let that stand.

    I do like how the DEA supervisor guy had to give badge & gun *back* to the corrupt cop (who gets results you stupid chief).
    Loose Cannon trope switcheroo.

  4. Mouth, did you review this movie for Ruthless Reviews? If not, you channel that reviewer really damn well, cause your comment above sounds pretty much exactly the same as the Sabotage review on that site.

  5. Ha, no you won’t find me published on the internet under any real bylines these days. We have a mutual online friend, though (a film school guy with whom I often rant about new movies (pretty much 99% of the reason I reactivated my facebook account)), and I chatted with him (her?) on FB a few times in recent months. Good sport, not afraid to jump into conversations with crazy filmatistical observations, which I try to match, so we must’ve osmosised each other’s comments into our posted reactions to SABOTAGE. Our FB thread was probably a first draft for this shit, if not a source for plagiarism.

    I enjoyed SABOTAGE, though. Wouldn’t give it a negative review. I want to see more of this type of thing from Schwarzenegger et al. And I can’t be the only person with a well-honed action movie “gimme your gun & your badge”-dar.

  6. Also I didn’t realize that was President Reagan’s face on the poster until after I read some reviews last week.
    I assumed “Ronbo” was some Asian C-movie knockoff character, so in my head I was giving Ayer credit for using set design & props to add personal flavor to the movie and bring attention to some obscure action film, like Zombie or Tarantino would, but now I realize it’s just an expression of his love for well armed international crimefighters.

  7. I liked this as well. I’d go 7/10 or something. Arnold is getting better as an actor post-politics and there was a good amount of decently-crafted action set pieces. It fits in with, though is better than Ayer’s first couple “entertainingly ridiculous/over-dramatic” movies; Harsh Times and Street Kings.

    Hope Arnold finds the right way to appeal to the current box office, but regardless, he’s doing some good work in his own right.

  8. Knox Harrington

    April 3rd, 2014 at 9:26 am

    Mireille Enos is so damn good in that TV show The Killing.

    Quiet, polite, unassuming, deceptively similar to a submissive housewife, but at the same time one of the fiercest detectives ever seen. She and Joel Kinnaman really make that show.

    Her part in Sabotage sounds a bit different, though. Hope she goes places.

  9. Honestly of the three Arnold comeback vehicles so far (Last Stand, Escape Plan, this), I would put SABOTAGE as my least favorite of the bunch. In fact honestly until the ending I wasn’t sure whether I could recommend it or just write it off as an interesting rental. (I’ll be honest, some of this convoluted mystery doesn’t make sense* to me.) But then that ending comes, which Arnold masterfully pulls off silently like Charles Bronson could’ve done with stone face weariness long ago. The ending is really nihilistic and makes you re-examine the whole film. One decision by one person would set off a chain reaction that gets many people killed. (Not just the team, look at all those civilian casualties.)

    Its ambitious and thoughtful. By Ayer standards anyway. That ending is why I would recommend it.

    Vern – I called it “sleazy” too but not in terms of content as much as attitude. McWeeny was right when he said everybody on the team is a piece of shit. In fact its actually kinda funny when the DEA refuse to help the team. That’s how much they hate these corrupt cops and how much these guys are fucked.

    Also Vern, you didn’t mention the actress who played the homicide investigator. Ayer did good casting the sort of girl with steel brass (in her pocket) who could stand up to these macho assholes and their bullshit.

    *=Like who gave the interrogation video to the investigator?

  10. Oslord – what’s sad is that Arnold is actually trying, taking interesting parts (unlike his movie star days when he looked for scripts that fit his bread & butter persona) but nobody really seems to care.

    If anything, reading alot of the reviews for his last 3 movies, critics just want Arnold to go away. Not just him, but the era of action films that he represents as well. Of course these assholes turn around and bitch about how there are too many superhero movies and that they want alternatives in the action field. That’s like wanting a different cereal than Frosted Flakes after you already pissed in your Cheerios.

    I think the era Arnold came from has seen its best days long behind it, but he’s still got something left in the tank. His last 3 movies were decent afternoon killing entertainments. Of course maybe this hostility is the one that’s always been there for these Steak & Potato movies. Look at the meh rating JACK REACHER has at Rotten Tomatoes. Absurd!

    Times like this I really miss Ebert. I like to think he would’ve liked both JR and LAST STAND, since both are pretty much good Clint Eastwood movies that Eastwood didn’t make and he was a big Eastwood fan. Hell Ebert was an a sort of Arnold fan himself. I seem to remember his review for the TOTAL RECALL remake where he said that Colin Farrell was a better “actor” than Arnold, but Arnold had better “movie star” charisma.

  11. I might check this out on a double bill with THE RAID 2 this weekend. Since I still haven’t seen ARNOLD VS THE CARTEL VOL. 1 feat JACKASS my expectations will be pretty low since I don’t know what I’m really in for. Now that I think of it this will be the first post-comeback Arnold joint I will end up watching.

  12. Didn’t like it very Vern.

    It’s a mess of a movie that’s partially salvaged by a really strong Arnie performance. The actual “plot” though makes 0 sense after the halfway point, and the movie seems really confused about what it wants to be, jumping in starts and stops from one genre to another, never getting a chance to pickup any steam or momentum.

    Also, aside from the refreshing novelty of how violent it is, the action is pretty weak for the most part (including a really really bad car-chase).

    I dunno, it feels more like a wasted opportunity than a movie worth championing. It’s got all these awesome actors doing good work in a movie that doesn’t know what to do with them.

    That being said, if this is the level Arnie is able to act at going forward, his next few he shoots after this might really be something special.

  13. The Original... Paul

    April 3rd, 2014 at 1:29 pm

    Well there’s no way in hell I’m reading the comments section until I’ve seen this (sorry guys). But I’m glad Vern liked it.

    Just looked at the UK release date though: 9th of MAY??!!!

    Seriously, FUCK this whole stinking delayed releases thing. If there’s one film you’d think people would want to see as early as possible to avoid the inevitable spoilers, this would be it.

    At least we get “The Raid 2” in a week’s time.

  14. Phenomenal Vern review. John Conan, ass tattoo and I know what you did last drug raid are all classic Vern.

    It’s possible this is the one film where the studio DIDN’T change what Skip Woods originally wrote. Giving him the benefit of the doubt.

    Agree, this is exactly the kind of movie Arnold should be doing now. Not the total man of action anymore but still in a world of violence and appropriately grizzled. But this is three failed comebacks in a row now. What if TERMINATOR GENESIS doesn’t open either?

  15. “It’s just not showing in Canada!”

    they’re only delaying it so they can rename it “Sabataaage”

  16. Griff, that’s a Shatner joke, right?

    (“Don’t correct me. It sickens me.”)

  17. Arnie’s next film should be an even bigger departure, “Maggie”, a horror-drama where he plays the father of a Abigail Breslin type (Abigail Breslin) who’s slowly succumbing to the zombie virus that’s ravaging the earth. So, even less room for pithy one liners in that.

    I rather liked Sabotage (the title kinda sucks though). Ayer really did bring his A-game for his directorial effort here, you can see how his craft has really progressed. For example, Pyro’s final scene is a nifty bit of thriller staging, the opening raid/heist is also very well done. Also, I don’t trust Skip Woods to write the incidental dialog as good as it is here, so I’m just gonna say, pretty good job there Davy.

    Too bad that the mystery plot really does go nowhere, but this would only be a bigger problem if the rest of the film wasn’t so chock full o’ scuzzy but charming dirty cops and well staged and hugely bloody shootouts. I also enjoy watching every Sam Worthington performance so I can keep track of him struggling to suppress his Australian accent. So the film on a whole can’t really count as actual, quality, capital R ‘respectable’ cinema, but as gritty and bloody popcorn entertainment it sure works out grandly.

    It is the kind of Clint Eastwood action vehicle that every older action star says they want to make. One that sincerely focuses on character and less on cartoonish heroics. Clint himself never would have made this movie exactly, but as a piece of gritty popcorn entertainment it fits the bill just fine.

  18. I don’t say sabotage. You say sabotage, I say sabataage.

  19. Curt – yes, it’s a Shatner joke

  20. I wouldn´t mind seeing Arnold doing more westerns. If one would call THE LAST STAND a western, as I just did.

  21. Dikembe Mutombo

    April 4th, 2014 at 7:47 am

    bullet3 – I’m with you. I was disappointed with this, but I had pretty high expectations coming off of END OF WATCH (not to sound like a broken record, I know I’ve pimped that movie a lot around here). The character interactions are pure Ayer but without as many of the tempering vulnerable touches that made END OF WATCH such a great surprise. The action was also kind of perfunctory too, again a step down from END OF WATCH’s thrilling set pieces. Even the humor doesn’t play as well.

    It reminded me of Mctiernan’s BASIC, but that movie had the sense to show the whole thing through the investigator’s eyes. SABOTAGE gives you enough scenes of Olivia Williams (playing enjoyably against type, though I can’t help but resent the trend of British actors playing southerners) and Harold Perrineau to imagine that version of the movie but it tries to have it both ways. For what’s basically a suspense film it spends most of its running time at a low simmer instead of heating up to a boil. It’s a weird movie tonally. It just kinda farts around making jokes when it should be ratcheting up tension and getting you inside its characters heads.

    I agree it’s a great role for Arnold. I just wish his character’s motivation hadn’t been hidden for the entire movie. For most of the movie he’s just this weirdly glib guy hanging around murder scenes. The structure of this was too cute for its own good. I really would have liked to have seen a different story with the same characters, something played more straight – maybe a movie where the team goes off the grid to help Arnold journey into the heart of darkness and they start getting picked off one by one deep in cartel territory. The (pretty cool) ending could stay the same. Just spitballin.

    As a proud Atlantan I was surprised and excited that it was actually an Atlanta-set movie and not just shot here. Some details of the setting are done well, and I like Ayer’s feel for the law enforcement world (I really liked the scene where Williams meets with the DEA guys and they stonewall her – I love details like the guy insisting that they don’t call them ‘cartels’). Also the abundance of cool gore effects was not unwelcome. It’s a swing and a miss for me overall, but I respect the choice by Arnold and definitely want to see more stuff in this mold as opposed to TWINS 2 or whatever (not that Im trying to put Danny DeVito out of work or anything).

  22. “I know what you did last drug raid.”

    This should’ve been the title.

  23. It’s a good Arnold movie but a disappointing follow up to the surprisingly tender End of Watch.

    The first 20-30 min or so where it’s just the badass team felt like it was trying a bit too hard to impress me with how gritty they all were. That shit was pretty impressive back when Denzel was forcing his trainee to do drugs at gunpoint in a police cruiser in the middle of a crowded intersection but it’s lost a bit of the magic for me over the years.

    Things improved a bit when Williams came in; she plays a credible homicide detective, had good chemistry with her partner. 2nd movie of the year (after 300) to use a woman’s nakedness as a badass credential: it doesn’t occur to her to be bashful when Arnie sneaks up on her skinny dipping.

    SPOILERS from here on out:
    Methgirl revealing her affair with Sugar for no fucking reason other than to move the plot forward? Arnold’s absurdly convenient disappearance after the car chase? And if the whole point of stealing the money was to bribe his way into the right info in Mexico, why didn’t he do that the minute they lifted the IA investigation? Why first reconstitute his team and watch them all get killed? Normally I roll my eyes when people start crying about plotholes and the like but I guess this tested my limits.

  24. Spoilers

    I dunno, that ending, to me, smacked of desperate reshoots. First of all, how in the HELL does ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER just VANISH in the middle of the street? Impossible. Just plain impossible. He’s not Batman. He’s a 66 year old man with a MASSIVE weapon. You can’t pull the, “He’s vanished!” card on that one.

    And that final shootout in Mexico felt like it was shot months later. It makes no sense to end this film on a shootout like that. Worse yet, I thought it was cool that this was an ensemble with Arnold in it, but the last twenty minutes pretty much flat-out determine, Ok, this is an Arnold movie, deal with it. I was not down with that at all.

  25. Gabe, but ain’t that the way Predator plays out? A squad of foul-mouthed badasses led by Arnold get gruesomely picked off one by one until just Arnold remains to execute the final action sequences. It’s a structure that works, because the supporting cast can bring the verbal acuity to give the movie some life, but then Arnold gets to do the one-man army thing that he’s so good at. I saw this movie this morning and I already don’t know how the chronology of it all is supposed to work out, but I don’t really care. The rowdy vibe and brutal but not depressing violence make it Arnold’s all-around best post-gubernatorial vehicle, in my opinion. It follows the first rule of drive-in cinema: anyone can die at any minute. I wish the Expendables had taken that rule to heart.

  26. Yeah, but Arnold in Predator is an invincible superman. Here, he’s a 66 year old dude, and the movie had, until that point, given a solid emphasis on the ensemble while Arnold just lingered in the background.

    I like the “anyone can die” vibe, but when you have a character say to someone, “At least you’re safe here” only to IMMEDIATELY be picked off by a sniper bullet… that’s just parody material, no?

  27. Saw this last night, and I thought Arnold was great! Every time that dude was on screen, I was having a great time, and I agree, its his best work since True Lies (wait, T3 was pretty good, too, but a gem hidden in shit). The main problem I had with this movie was the rest of his fucking crew. Why oh why do we have to spend time with these assholes, and Sam Worthington is the lead support?!? I fuckin’ hate that guy. He’s the most unbelievable tough guy since Gerard Butler took his shirt off and tried to make you forget he was Dracula 2000. Its getting the point now that I can’t even see his face without getting fucking enraged. And to put that stupid braided metal beard on him in this one- you torture me, Ayer. You really are giving me an ulcer, I’m so pissed. And then you got poor Terrence Howard hanging out in the background, wondering what the fuck he’s supposed to do. Dude is clearly the best actor in the room at all times, yet he has a few lines mixed in, and then he’s part of the twist at the end. (spoiler) I really felt like his and Worthington should have switched roles. That would have given Howard some monologues, he would be been able to really make you feel hurt when he’s double crossed, finding that dude in the fridge would be have been heartbreaking. Also, Worthington might have excelled with less to do, and since I already hated him immediately, he would have been the perfect choice to get decapitated by a tow truck. I just feel like that was a massive blunder, but really, I would have killed the entire crew in the first fifteen minutes, Mission Impossible style, and had Arnold left to his own devices for the rest of the movie.

    Another thing about this that was kind of weird, is that Arnold is basically a total shitbird to his “family” and it didn’t seem like the filmmakers wanted to cast any judgement on that. He’s still totally the hero, and a badass by the end of the movie. My buddy gave this movie an alternate title as we were walking out of the movie: Arnie’s Big Fuckover. There’s no reason for him to lie like he does and get everyone he knows and cares about killed. I mean, it doesn’t seem like he wants everyone to die, but then its like, Whatever. None of that shit matters though, because the unexpected finale in Mexico was so goddamn badass I couldn’t believe it. It really made me wish the whole movie was just that scene. You can tell Arnold is channeling Clint in that final shot, and goddamn if it doesn’t fit well.

    I really dug this movie, despite the annoying crew and their annoying amount of screen time

  28. The Original... Paul

    May 8th, 2014 at 4:14 pm

    Well… I thought I’d like that more than I did. I kinda agree with Mouth on this one actually. Put it down as “just ok”.

    SPOILERS follow.

    …So when you hear a movie described as “Commando crossed with And Then There Were None”, you expect two things: badass characters and a convincing mystery plot. Well, the reveal of the killer was exactly what I’d predicted from ten minutes into the movie, and what I’m guessing most people predicted since there are three or four characters, maximum, who stand out enough to actually BE the killer, and only one’s in a position where she’d actually be a realistic candidate. There aren’t really any red herrings either, so I ended up in a position where I wasn’t really questioning myself. There was no point where I thought “It could be X instead maybe”.

    The reveal of the accomplice, however, I didn’t see coming, and moreover it makes no goddamn sense given the other twist at the end of this movie – if the killer wasn’t the one who stole the cash, why is the other person even helping her? In fact, isn’t her whole motive incredibly weak? She gets double-crossed by one of them, she’s not sure who, so she kills ALL of them? Really? I know she’s completely strung-out by this point, but she was obviously coherent enough to plant DNA evidence framing a bunch of cartel members.

    I also didn’t buy the vanishing act at the end. That was just lazy filmmaking. And why the heck does he go and steal the money without telling the group what he’s doing? I get that he was lying to the FBI girl earlier in the movie, but still… as Randy said… he completely screws over his “family”.

    Having said that… I kinda disagree with Randy on the group. I thought Worthington was probably the best thing in the movie, actually; I certainly don’t get the “hate” for him, unless it comes from past films that I haven’t seen before. I don’t understand what he’s supposed to have done badly in this one. I kind of like movies about hard-drinking hard-working stiffs, and I like “dysfunctional team” movies (“Dirty Dozen”, etc). I don’t think that formula can work, though, when one of the team is actually a traitor. And did anybody else think that Worthington’s character knew all along who’d stolen the money, but just chose not to say? It’d be interesting to rewatch the movie with that in mind I think.

    It DID work in “Backdraft”, which is basically a near-identical movie to “Sabotage” but using firefighters instead of undercover cops. The trouble is that “Backdraft” is a way better movie in my opinion: it has a doozy of a mystery (I didn’t see the reveal coming at all, yet when you look back the clues are there throughout and it’s pretty plain that the arsonist couldn’t have been anybody except the person it was), a better finale, more likeable characters, and a more convincing central plot.

    Oh, and action-wise, “Sabotage” is just ok too. There’s a little shakycam which I could’ve done without, and a lot of quick edits that become pretty noticeable at times. There were very few moments where I couldn’t tell what was going on, but there were plenty where I found myself taken “out of the movie”.

    So yeah… I thought “Sabotage” was ok. Like “The Winter Soldier” this one is a mild “miss” for me, which is disappointing because I thought I’d enjoy it more than most even if it didn’t hit the mark.

  29. The Original... Paul

    May 8th, 2014 at 4:58 pm

    Oh yeah… and seven people were in the cinema. And I’m sure I recognised two of them from the “Last Stand” showing. Audience reaction was a little muted for this one. No whooping at flare gun kills.

  30. The Original... Paul

    May 8th, 2014 at 5:30 pm

    And talking about plot holes of the century… if Arnie blew up the money before he left the room where it was stored, how the hell did anybody know that ten million dollars were missing in the first place?

  31. You know how many were in my cinema Paul? Big.Fucking.Zero.(0)(nil)(nada)(nyet)(none)(fuck-all). Why? Because Sabotage was due for release here last week and they pulled it. So gotta wait for the DVD release. I’m betting it was that goddamn star wars marathon last weekend that got in the way of scheduling. Bloody nerds. (lol)(haha)( :) )

  32. The Original... Paul

    May 9th, 2014 at 2:15 pm

    Darren – it’s ironic. When I was much younger, I wished they’d show older stuff in the cinema so I could see it there. Now there seem to be weeks when they show nothing BUT older stuff, and I’m hoping for something original. I’m not easily satisfied I guess!

  33. Boy, this one was a plodding snoozer. Completely agree with the sentiment that this is a great role for Arnold, and a decent performance from him. An excellent cast, too. What ruined it was all the over-the-top “we’re real deep cover agents crap.” It’s like the film is constantly screaming out to you:

    we are real deep cover cops. we’re unfiltered. we’re tough. we’re playfully competitive. we’re raunchy. we bond over our shared toughness and inability to be vulnerable. we say things like ‘dropped ass’ whenever someone farts, because the actors who play us spent time doing research with real cops who I can only gather said ‘dropped ass’ once or twice. because we’re cops. that’s who we are. etc. Also, have you seen the way we play dress up? we have braided facial hair, unconventional hairstyles and neck tattoos. it’s just who we are, if you can’t handle it, out of the kitchen, etc. also, the women are tough, too. still women, but tough, and not afraid to get in there and out-macho the macho guys.” That crap was just so on-the-nose so pervasively it was at first laughable and then tedious. Kind of like the one-dimensional macho marine crap in Aliens only 30 years later and with cornrows and tattoos and worse and just interminable.

    Second complaint was the the perpetually gray, overcast “hey, this is grim and vaguely documentary-esque” aesthetic. Not that this could never work, but along with the above, it just pushes way over the top the whole on-the-nose effort to establish that “this is real, yo. this is dark shit. no, really, it’s real. would you-the-viewer just get a load of how f’ing gritty, grizzled, and grim, and other things that start with gri- this is?” Oy.

    (Also, what the f is up with that half-assed Rocky montage where Arnold tells the team they’re re-activated, and then they have to sweep that training building to dust off their skills.)

    Sorry, I really wanted to rental-like this, but it just didn’t happen for me.

    I like the

  34. ix-nay on the hanging “I like the”

  35. On a John related note, does anyone know if/where its possible to watch Lawless starring The Boz as ex-special forces turned motorbiking PI John Lawless??

    It got cancelled after one episode, must have been ahead of its time

  36. Do check out the DVD/Blu-ray alternate endings though. Holy shit, if they would have put those in the movie it would have really fucked people up. But then they would have had to see the movie in the first place to get there.

  37. The Undefeated Gaul

    September 4th, 2014 at 3:06 am

    What happened in the alternate endings?

  38. Maxiao – I’ve been trying to find that too, nobody seems to have it. I seriously wanted to write a book called ‘Strictly Bozness,’ but decided I couldn’t do it without seeing Lawless. I think there might be some other unavailable things in his filmography too, but that was the big one.

  39. Vern, you should contact Boz’s people personally. I bet they’d send it to you. How many other respected authors (from Seattle, no less) are lining up to write an honest consideration of his work?

  40. I had no idea that The Boz turned up to an Alamo Drafthouse screening of STONE COLD a few months back. He even feilded a few questions:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jeBXCxPXl3g

  41. That’s not a bad idea, Majestyk.

  42. Crushinator Jones

    January 6th, 2015 at 2:57 pm

    I finally caught this on Netflix. The action didn’t do much for me, but I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the whodunnit part of the movie. Plus I’m a sucker for films that switch perspectives on you (first we start with Arnold’s team, then the investigating detectives, back to Arnold, etc.)

    But one thing I’m not entirely sure about is the timeline of murders. Here it is to the best of my ability:

    0) Cartels find out that money is missing, wants retribution.
    1) Some badass Guatamalan Special Forces Dudes (GSFD) kill Tripod on orders from the Cartel.
    2) Sugar and Lizzy decide to kill the rest of the team for stealing from them.
    3) Sugar and Lizzy somehow know about and catch the GSFD dudes and drop them at the bottom of the lake, but cut off their thumbs to fake evidence implying that those 3 GSFD are running around killing the rest of the team.
    4) Lizzy and Sugar kill everybody but Monster and Breacher and plant evidence to make it look like GSFD.
    5) Lizzy accidently kills Monster, goes on the run.
    6) Breacher kills Sugar and Lizzy, goes to Mexico, kills hostage-taker, takes fatal wound, chills until death.

    Is this correct? Because I got a little confused at the end, thought that Breacher was the GSFD killer, and wondered why he was killing the rest of the team. They don’t quite make it clear how/why Lizzy and Sugar knew to locate, and frame, the GSFD hit squad.

  43. I just watched this last night on Netflix. Putting my thoughts together made me realize something about myself nowadays, at almost 40, watching movies for almost that fucking long.
    I really give a flying fuck so much any more about plot, plot consistencies and lack thereof. Plot is only part of the package of the whole story. If you judge any story on the supposed merits of its plot over anything, you leave out a lot. You leave out all of the truly rewarding aspects of any story, such as themes, character, not to mention film-making craft in the case of movies.
    So, Sabotage’s story didn’t add up to me, but there was a heck of a lot in this movie that I loved and that stick with me today. I love the way Ayer drops us into the team, no on-screen titles or anything else holding our hand. I really liked in the early scenes the team dynamic – it wasn’t all Arnold dominating things like you’d expect.
    I liked the intro; a side of Arnold not seen before and him going into Eastwood territory like Vern says.
    All the scenes with Olivia Williams were great; I wish there could have been more, and more with her partner.
    Very, very violent, but I felt the backstory of Arnold’s character truly horrifying and the scenes thereof fucking disturbing. Having Mexican cartels lurking in the background I thought was genuinely scary, but the twist that it was Enos’s character was pretty stupid.
    I don’t mind the weird ghost Arnold at the end, because it gave us the great coda, which was awesome action but had also a gravitas from Arnold worthy of Unforgiven.

    So, a shame the story couldn’t have gone another way and focussed on some of these other things. Too many strands. But I absolutely would not write this movie off just because of its flaws, but it seems that culture did before it could even have a chance. Arnold deserves praise for this.

  44. Happy to see some love for this one, one of my most rewatched movies of last year. Ayer has his faults, but his unwieldiness suits this type of raw late period Arnold vehicle. THE LAST STAND was more of a polished version of Arnold action, and I like that one too, but SABOTAGE was like a throwback to RAW DEAL in it’s, uh, rawness, and reminded me of the kind of movie Walter Hill might have made in the 80’s.

  45. caruso_stalker217

    December 12th, 2015 at 9:45 pm

    Finally caught this on Netflix last night. Not bad, but definitely shit the bed in the third act. It didn’t surprise me to learn the ending was originally much darker and it makes a lot of sense and would have cleared up some issues I had with the Breacher character (seriously, dude, why didn’t you just go to Mexico to begin with?). This is why you shouldn’t fuck with endings, people.

    Also, I found Arnold’s team to be hilariously over the top piece of shit fucking assholes. Where did he recruit these fuckers from, the bus station?

  46. The Original Paul

    December 13th, 2015 at 7:08 pm

    I’m curious as to whether anybody thought the “whodunnit” might be resolved any other way. I liked this movie, I liked parts of the team cameraderie especially, but I kinda hated how obvious the “main” killer was throughout. (I didn’t see the accomplice coming, but then the accomplice barely appeared as a character throughout most of the movie anyway, so it wasn’t as though I was stunned to discover that someone I thought had to be innocent was actually involved.) It had the MANDY LANE / CHERRY FALLS-esque quality of the main killer’s identity barely being hidden at all; but unlike those movies, there didn’t seem to be an element of “watch me and see if you can spot what I’m doing”. It just felt like a lack of suspense due to bad character building or plotting.

    And on a completely different subject, someone please see and write-up the Colin Farrell / Rachel Weiss / John C Reilly sci-fi drama THE LOBSTER (I know I pretty much gave it a universally negative review, but I want to see what somebody else makes of it ’cause I honestly feel that I might have missed the “point”, and I’d like to see a defence of it from somebody who didn’t.)

  47. SPOILERS – Paul, IMDB lists a few alternate endings under the trivia section where the killer turns out to be Arnold, which is honestly who I expected the whole time since all clues point to him. (He’s actually the closest the movie has to a red herring) I never felt the killer in the theatrical cut was obvious, I honestly thought it was going to be Olivia Williams or Worthington. But yeah, Enos definitely steals the show – she has probably the coolest intro I’ve seen in years (a kip-up on a bed followed by a superman punch(!) followed by a change from sexy to sensible clothes?) and I actually kinda liked her. It’s so weird how her reveal as the killer is just done so matter-of-fact, that you wonder if the film is pulling an unreliable narrator flashback on you, but nope, she’s really the killer. Or is she? The movie is so muddled it’s not really clear who killed who or why.

    Burning Questions: Who hired the mercs? Did they really kill Tripod or was the merc body they found planted? (I assume he was NOT planted since he wasn’t shot in the head or anything and bled to death from a leg wound from Tripod’s booby trap). Didn’t the coroner immediately point out the other mercs were killed BEFORE Tripod though? This isn’t a particularly well thought-out coverup. (This plot point of framing killers by planting the DNA from already dead patsies was literally ripped from Ayer’s Street Kings, btw).

    Why would the killer(s) hire mercs for one murder, shoot another guy with a sniper rifle, but also take the time to do some weird Mindhunters-esque horror movie murders on 2 other guys? We’re supposed to believe Enos and Howard really impaled Josh Holloway on a stalagmite or whatever? And that the authorities would think some Guatemalan mercs machine gunned one guy but snuck into another guy’s RV and parked it on the train tracks while he was asleep? How did the DEA know money was missing and exactly how much when they blew it up? What was the significance of the bullet left in the sewer? How about the DEA guy that Arnold had the confrontation with in the bathroom earlier? So many dropped plot points. Why was this movie called “Ten” until the last minute? (I know it’s an homage to Ten Little Indians but there aren’t ten people in the squad!)

    So yeah, it’s a mess script-wise and tonally (this is the type of movie where we see a guy’s wife get tortured to death and within 5 minutes we have people making jokes about breaking a nail during a firefight). The final scene with Arnold in the bar seems to have come out of a different movie (though i do like that his “good” intentions ended up being everyone’s downfall). Anyways, I liked it ok but I guess this movie proves if you reshoot the ending to your whodunit, you better reshoot a whole bunch of the middle as well (unless your movie is Clue).

  48. Okay, re-watched it. Liked it more. Still has a lot of flaws, but the characters are such fun sleazeballs (lots of great character actors and b-list stars jammed in here), Arnold is such a bawse in this, and it’s such an in-your-face hard R, that I can’t be mad at it. The film has moxie.

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