Directed by David Ayer. Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sam Worthington, Terrence Howard, Joe Manganiello, Josh Holloway, Mireille Enos. (2014, R, 109 min.)
REVIEWED By Louis Black, Fri., March 28, 2014
Ugly and mean-spirited, Sabotage starts off badly, only to get dumber as it progresses. John “Breacher” Wharton (Schwarzenegger) leads a crack DEA team – the best of the best – on a raid of a mansion/fortress where hundreds of millions of dollars in drug profits are stored. Once they get into the money room, they proceed to steal $10 million, hiding it in the pipes under the toilet. This is giving nothing away, but simply revealing what happens during the film’s opening minutes. They then blow up the entire stash in hopes of covering their theft. Not only is the stolen money gone when they go to retrieve it, but the powers that be manage to figure out that the stash, even though exploded, was substantially short. After being grilled, taken off active duty, and closely watched for six months, the government is unable to prove anything and restores the unit.
Following this opening, the story really drowns, continually turning on itself in unexpected, vicious, and illogical ways. Bob Dylan said that “to live outside the law you must be honest.” Good, violent action films always adhere to a moral code; the very best of them – The Wild Bunch, for example – adhere to the strictest of codes. Sabotage is an amoral incoherent mess that only pretends to have a distant and ever-shifting morality. There are any number of unexplained actions, including a murder that makes no sense by any of the explanations the film eventually offers.
The team’s code involves dark machismo and the sole woman member (Enos) doesn’t just pitch in but leads the way. Her character proves fascinating for the first two-thirds of the film, until she’s completely squandered at the ending. The violence is always vicious, the catalog of brutally attacked, pornographically bloody bodies is unending, and despite the abundance of action the film is terribly dull.