Movie Review: “Sabotage” – Arnold’s Best in Years

Written by Leo Panasyuk May 19, 2014

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Arnold Schwarzenegger has enjoyed quite a vibrant film career resurgence following his time as the Governator, playing the exact same role as he did thirty years prior. Yes, even if he may have lost his bodybuilder physique and penchant for delivering witty one-liners with rapid-fire efficiency, he’s still the shining example of the true, classic action hero. However, David Ayer’s “Sabotage” lets Arnie sink his teeth into a more human and sympathetic role, offering him some much-needed acting versatility, in a less-than-original film.

“I’m Gonna Destroy Them”

Arnold stars as John “Breacher” Wharton, the leader of an elite DEA special operations team, tasked with raiding drug houses. Wharton’s main team consists of Monster (Sam Worthington), Grinder (Joe Manganiello), Sugar (Terrence Howard), and Lizzie (Mireille Enos). When a raid nets the team $10 million worth of drug money, they secretly pocket it and incinerate the remaining evidence. All is well until the team starts getting killed one by one, leading them to believe the drug cartel from whom they stole the money wants retribution. But their true enemy may just be among their own ranks…

Most of the action takes place in well-populated areas, making anyone seem expendable.

Most of the action takes place in well-populated areas, making anyone seem expendable.

“We’re Not a Team. We’re a Gang”

“Sabotage’s” greatest strengths are also its greatest weaknesses. Arnold enjoys his best comeback role yet, with his character considerably more grounded than what we’ve seen so far. Ayer directs Arnold in such a way that strips him of his hyper-masculine aura, and almost makes him seem like a regular Joe. He is a man – as clichéd as it sounds – with a dark and ultimately gut-wrenching past. Arnold has always been the lone-wolf character, but here there’s a true sense of camaraderie among the team and they behave more of like a family than an elite police force.

However, with such a strong focus on Arnold, little-to-nothing is given to his co-stars/teammates. For example, even though Monster and Lizzie are married, there’s little insight into their personal lives to show that they really are a normal married couple beyond their badges. Most of the other supporting cast fall into a similar pit of obscurity, where we don’t really care what happens to them because we’re given too much focus on Arnold. Once the killings commence there is very little room for remorse and sympathy, as these characters’ deaths only serve to propel the plot forward and put the remaining characters one step closer to either, A) uncovering the mystery of who is really hunting them, or B) “getting dead.”

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The way the raids are filmed, you’d think you were watching an all-too-real episode of “DEA.”

“Call EMS. There’s Lots of Bodies”

With “End of Watch” as evidence, Ayer possesses a particular skill in directing action sequences in a realistic respect. Most of the action sequences do not leave the hero outnumbered, as is common to Schwarzenegger’s body of work, but are presented as being more balanced to both sides. Arnold’s team may not be well-developed, but once bullets start flying the team comes together in a convincing way, as they clear rooms and take down bad guys. The aftermath of some of the action sequences is quite gruesome, too; this is not a film for the faint of heart as even innocent civilians bite the bullet(s).

Overall

David Ayer’s “Sabotage” gives Arnold Schwarzenegger a meatier, more human role that lets him show a softer, more sympathetic side. With brilliant direction by Ayer “Sabotage” is more of an action-infused drama than a run-of-the-mill Arnie actioner, and there is sometimes true emotion between the bloodshed. Whether you’re an old or new Arnold fan, you should certainly get a kick out of “Sabotage.”

My Rating: 7/10

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About Leo Panasyuk

A fan of all things film, Leo never really lets himself get tied down to one specific genre. He's always interested in watching new and old films and especially loves the IMAX format. When he's not choosing which movie to watch next, he's studying Film and English at Western University.

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