Sabotage is a gritty, violent thriller that teaches a lesson in how doubt, paranoia and a large sum of money can drive a wedge between the tightest of relationships. This film is a good choice for Arnold Schwarzenegger, who continues to be seen in above average films to revitalize his career. Sabotage has big guns, big muscles and big piles of bodies and gore – everything a Schwarzenegger fan could want from one of his films minus the usual campiness that follows him. In choosing a more serious film, however, audiences find themselves slogging through an overwrought story to get to the good parts.
John “Breacher” Wharton (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is a haunted man. Years ago, his wife and son were kidnapped by cartel enforcers, who sent Breacher a video of themselves murdering his family. Breacher is also the leader of an elite DEA task force that plans to take some unauthorized compensation from the pile of drug money they know is waiting for them at the end of their most recent raid on a cartel compound. The team cleverly hides the cash in a discrete location and plans to retrieve it after the investigation of their raid is completed. When they return, however, the money is gone and now each member of the team is a suspect. Things go from bad to worse when members end up murdered in ways that point to cartel slayings. Working with an investigator (Olivia Williams), Breacher must find out who’s picking off his team and who stole the money.
Sabotage is surprisingly light on action. This is because the majority of the film is spent fleshing out the myriad characters and their relationships. Including Breacher, there are nine DEA team members that the film does its best to bring to life. That means having to listen to several scenes of bawdy banter about events that have nothing to do with the current story. Add investigator Caroline (Williams) and her partner (Harold Perrineau), and screentime becomes more and more limited. None of this is to say that there is no action, just that audiences should expect a lot of talking.
When the action does ramp up, it’s satisfying. The team works believably well together, overcoming realistic obstacles in an urban environment. Plus, there are enough ancillary personnel to breathe a sense of coordinated realism into scenes that could easily have become over-the-top macho moments. Director David Ayer’s touch is present in a few of the gun battles where the ironic camera angles he used in End of Watch make an appearance here. Regrettably, those interesting points of view aren’t consistent throughout, making those moments more jarring than organic.
Arnold Schwarzenegger does a good job in carrying the film, but the role does slip out of his acting reach a few times. Nevertheless, if he had never taken a break from acting to pursue a political career, then Sabotage is probably a film he wouldn’t have been considered for. But now that he has this opportunity to reinvent his brand, Schwarzenegger is a pretty good fit. He looks great for his age, and it’s comforting to see him filling older roles as a seasoned veteran. It also doesn’t hurt that he’s surrounded by an above average supporting cast composed of Sam Worthington, Terrence Howard, Joe Mangeniello and Mireille Enos to name a few.
Ultimately, Sabotage is a satisfying film that doesn’t pull any punches in telling the story it wants to tell. It has excellent casting, good production value and a grittiness that’s difficult to find in a PG-13 dominated movie-scape. The only glaring issue is the filmmakers’ choice not to streamline and pare down some of the extraneous scenes. But that criticism aside, Sabotage is still a good addition to any movie library if for no other reason than its rarity.
Our review copy was the Blu-ray, DVD and Digital HD Ultraviolet version, so buyers get the film in three different formats. Exclusive to the Blu-ray are alternate endings that offer an eye-opening look at the direction the filmmakers wanted to take the film, which makes it even grittier and darker. Moreover, these endings add an extra layer of complexity to Schwarzenegger’s character, which would have been a welcome addition. Test audiences or perhaps producer fears that paying audiences weren’t ready to make that leap with the actor probably led to the theatrical ending, but at least these alternate endings exist to give buyers a glimpse of what might have been.
Deleted scenes are also included, which flesh out Caroline’s character more and offers a parallel story for the main story that was meant to be told. But when the endings were changed to the theatrical ending, it was obvious that the parallel story had no significance to the rest of the film. Still, there’s enough here to piece together a richer story than the theatrical cut presents.
Finally, a “making of” featurette offers behind the scenes interviews with the cast and director.