by Hope Madden
At 67-years-old, Arnold Schwarzenegger is having a career resurgence of sorts. Sabotage is his 3rd film to be released in the last 12 months, and he has 5 more in development, including sequels to Expendables, Conan and Terminator. That’s not to say he’s exactly found an audience for his return to the big screen, but he’s certainly trying.
Truth is, neither Escape Plan or The Last Stand – his last two efforts – made at the box office even half of what they cost to produce. You’ve got to hope that his sequels do a little better, or that he’s put away some cash for retirement from somewhere else, because Sabotage is not likely to please a wider audience than his last two flicks.
It’s a darker film that you might expect, with mercifully few jokes about Arnold’s age. As Breacher, a legendary DEA agent whose career has taken an ugly turn, the big Austrian leads a team of unhinged misfits whose last bust corrupted their trust in the team and in Breacher.
Sabotage was co-written and directed by David Ayer, whose resume is littered with ill-conceived, gritty cop dramas (and the first Fast and Furious flick – so thanks for that). It’s a winding tale of double crosses that betray the worst in everybody, but Ayer can’t find a clean path through the story and Arnold can’t begin to shoulder the emotional weight required of his should-be complex character.
Points for a couple of unusual casting decisions. Mireille Enos cuts a sketchy figure as the team’s sole female agent – a role that could easily have fallen to (and seems to have been written for) a shapely babe pretending to be a badass. Instead, Enos looks like someone who could be mistaken for a meth addict (a plus in the world of covert DEA ops). She chews scenery, but at least she’s memorable.
Likewise, Olivia Williams has talent, and her ease with the material allows some genuine chemistry and natural humor to invade an otherwise stiff, by-the-numbers action flick. What she can’t do is handle a southern accent. Ouch.
Some decent red herrings are thrown about as Williams’s good cop works with Breacher to figure out who is picking off his team one by one. This generates decent tension as the investigation leads us through otherwise obvious territory. It’s when Ayer tries to throw an actual curve ball that things get sloppy.
He’s not aided by his lead’s performance, though. The twisty, secret-riddled script required a performance with a modicum of range. And yet, Ayers cast Arnold Schwarzenegger. Curious.