25th Jul2014

‘Sabotage’ Review

by Ian Loring

Stars: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sam Worthington, Joe Maganiello, Terrence Howard, Olivia Williams, Harold Perrineau | Written by David Ayer, Skip Woods | Directed by David Ayer

sabotage-cast

Arnold Schwarzenegger’s journey back to the big screen has been fraught with financial peril. While the Expendables films have done decent enough business, his other ventures since his return from government have proven to be fairly rocky. The Last Stand only scrapped past making back its production budget worldwide, and although his Stallone co-starrer Escape Plan managed to make over $100 million, his latest solo starring vehicle Sabotage has made less than $20 million across the globe which used to turn out in their droves, once for a film when the Austrian Oak got pregnant. Oh how times change…

In all honesty though, its easy to see why Sabotage would not bring in wide audiences. David Ayer, who has made his name on manly men being men films and had great success recently with End of Watch, has crafted a nasty, grisly and often-times quite uncomfortable to watch film which attempts to force how serious its being down your throat but often borders into a bizarre kind of parody.

A simple enough plot sees Schwarzenegger head up a team of butch men with ridiculous names, one is genuinely called “Neck”, another “Tripod”, and a seemingly strung out, constantly on the edge woman (played in a flat out bizarre manner by Mirielle Eros) who start getting killed off after they attempt to steal $10 million found in a bust but find that the money goes missing. The problem with all of this however is that not once do any of the characters approach being anything like engaging enough to ever care which ones die and which ones live. Any attempts at giving any depth are also wiped away with scenes seeming to start to develop characters only for them to be forgotten in the next scene.

It’s puzzling to see what Ayer was actually going for with this film. Does he want it to be a loose, fun action film? The team and their constant quipping at each other would seem to suggest so at times as does Schwarzengger’s cigar chomping manner. However, the scenes of graphic torture and lingering, viscerally brutal violence (incidentally, this may be the least appropriately 15 rated film ever released) ensure that it almost feels like Ayer is wallowing in degradation and sleaze. There is a place for that and when done right it can reap results (the recent remake of Maniac would be an example I’d use for this), but the result here is a film which just isn’t all that entertaining to watch, and surely that’s the base requirement for a Schwarzenegger film today, or indeed ever.

The rest of the cast are a somewhat mixed bunch. Sam Worthington does little of any note but Joe Maganiello lifts proceedings at times, particularly in the first half of the film. The rest of the team may as well not be there, indeed I’d forgotten Terrence Howard was even a member of the group until late on. Olivia Williams and Harold Perrineau fare better although it must be said that seeing Williams and Schwarzengger attempt sexual chemistry is, to be kind, somewhat insane.

Sabotage is rubbish but it is somewhat made worse by the fact that it seems like Ayer is actually aspiring to something with it. Aiming for a sense of being “in the shit” and ending up just feeling like you’ve been smelling it for 90 minutes, there’s little here to get on board with.

* 1/5

Sabotage is out now on DVD, Blu-ray and VOD in the US. The film is released in the UK on September 15th.

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