Monday, April 7, 2014

MOVIE REVIEW: Sabotage (2014)

When I first saw the trailers for Sabotage, I was enthused but otherwise wasn't expecting much. I've been happy to see Schwarzenegger making a Hollywood comeback, because even in his "retirement" years, he's still a badass. I really enjoyed The Last Stand, and even Escape Plan was a lot of fun, if somewhat goofy.

So, this latest action flick looked to be more of the same. Dudes with guns running around killing other dudes with guns, some chases, some revenge, some shots of Arnold glowering menacingly. Pretty standard stuff, really. Right?


This movie is brutal. I don't mean brutal as in Commando-era Arnold running around hosing down countless pissant soldiers who pirouette and drop to the ground when shot. I mean gruesomely, unrelentingly violent. This is easily the most graphically violent movie Schwarzenegger has ever done, and I don't say that lightly. While his movies have high body counts, and some (like Total Recall) have some messy bits, the graphic, in-your-face nature of the violence in Sabotage is unique to his career. While I can get icked out by torture scenes in movies, graphic violence usually doesn't phase me much...but I was uncomfortable at times with this film, and that's saying something.

Furthermore, this is Arnold like we've never seen him before. There has always been at least a hint that Schwarzenegger is winking to the audience in his movies. The "I'll be back" line, the posing with the guns a la Commando, the corny one-liners, and so forth. We've come to expect it, to the point where we don't even notice it until it's gone. But in Sabotage, there's none of that Schwarzenegger self-referentialism. I won't say he's "acting" better than ever, but he is able to, more than I've ever seen him, put away his Hollywood MegaStar-ness and just play a role as straight as possible, without any mugging or otherwise playing "Arnold".

As for the movie itself, there's nothing truly original or jaw-dropping here. Schwarzenegger plays "Breacher" Wharton, an old, grizzled DEA door-kicker (thus, the "Breacher" moniker) who leads an undercover team of agents who infiltrate drug organizations, then tear them apart. These guys are the DEA version of Delta Force and Seal Team Six, unconventional warfare types who roll with lots of tattoos and facial hair and highly customized kit loadouts. As the movie opens, they're taking down some drug cartel and they hide ten million dollars in cash on the premises, hoping to steal the money for themselves, but when they return for the money, someone's taken it. Whoops.

Come to find out, the FBI was running an operation in parallel with theirs, and knew how much money was in the place, so the fact that ten million dollars is missing doesn't go unnoticed, either by the DEA or the Cartel, who doesn't like losing their money to the government, but likes having it stolen by government agents for their own personal use even less. But of course, the thieves can't tell anyone it was stolen from them without admitting they stole it in the first place. Six months of investigation and interrogation by the DEA, and none of the members breaks, and they're finally - begrudgingly - put back on the job.

I don't want to give away any spoilers, because this movie does have a few twists and turns that are definitely worth keeping hidden. Suffice to say, some members of the team start getting killed. Breacher and the surviving members begin to turn on each other, assuming that the Cartel is coming after their money, and they all begin to suspect that someone on the team beat the rest to the money and took it for themselves. We also begin to learn some dark aspects of Breacher's past, as well as seeing the tensions and conflicts within the team. Operators who always live on the ragged edge of right and wrong can lose track of where the line is drawn, and that becomes a very scary place to live.

Badass Digest, one of my favorite film and television websites, wrote a really good review of this film, one that I more or less agree with. This isn't a "great movie", but it is one of the best Schwarzenegger movies, and if you're a fan of his films, you really need to see this. Even after more than 30 years of movie stardom, the big guy can still surprise us.


Chris said...

I will definitely need to see this, but probably not until it's out on dvd or something. Who knows, maybe I'll catch it on the road somewhere. I'm intrigued, though I'm no big violence guy myself.

BISH said...

Hmmm ... will probably pass on this due to the 'unrelenting violence.' I liked Last Stand and had fun with Escape Plan, but this one probably goes to far for me ...

Derrick Ferguson said...

Charles Gramlich said...

Wow, if the graphic violence gave you pause I think I've got to check this one out. It didn't make much a blip on my radar when I first heard about it.