There’s no other explanation. I must be getting old. There’s got to be some sort of threshold when you enter your mid-thirties when the thought of an overabundance of gore, blood and car chases gets you excited. The thought of seeing Arnie chomping on a cigar and gunning down bad guys. The fifteen year-old me would have loved Sabotage.
In short, there’s a gang of DEAs comprised of Terence Howard, The Governator as their leader, some meth-riddled blonde, and a couple of non-descript slabs of meat with a gravelly voice (presumably from UFC or something) who’ve tried to bust a cartel at their home and steal $10m for themselves. It doesn’t go to plan, and so they are – in a curious mirror of typical action movies – suspended pending an investigation. I say curious because being forced to hand over your badge and gun is a typical end-of-Act II trait for action thrillers; in Sabotage, Arnie gets his returned to him no later than twenty minutes into the movie. Once reinstated, the team are back on to track down the money and the killer of Arnie’s Wife and Son.
Right, here’s the thing. This movie is much, much too violent for its own good. This is not an action movie – it’s downright horror. There are a good number of breach-and-clear moments that reveal such gore-drenched shocks that you’d probably find in films like Saw or predator 2. The latter, in fact, seems to be a big influence for co-writer and director David Ayer who, up until his last film End of Watch, decided that nailing his victims to the ceiling and having his protagonist FBI fodder slip ‘n slide around on their bowels was far too immature.
It’s almost as if Ayer is trying to admonish the usually sedate nature of his previous outing. I can’t really be bothered to look up End of Watch’s behaviour at the box office, but when I saw it it didn’t strike me as a money spinner. Here, Sabotage is surely that – the execs at the studio clearly wanted a none-too difficult lowcomdom, brainless (fortunate, given the nature of the head cavities in many of the cannon fodder) and downright grizzly horror movie. On this front, Ayer delivers; if you want oceans of blood, bullets and some serious nastiness then you’re dancing in the right disco with this movie.
If you want a more measured actioner (and I am aware this is an Arnie thing, so don’t get me wrong) then look elsewhere. Predator was nearly as gory as this, but then it featured an iconic monster. Here, we have a dubious antagonist at best who isn’t revealed until the whole farce is too late. Slap a body count caption card on the corner, and Sabotage becomes closer in nature to Hot Shots Part Deux.
I can’t duck out of this review without mentioning one key, annoying element; the camerawork. Once again, one of the more pronounced techniques retained from the near-documentary End of Watch, it is used here to frustrating effect. Everything is filmed in handi-cam close up. Establishing shots be damned – an entire car chase toward the end of the movie proves to be about as effective as the one that opens Quantum of Solace – but this time, it’s not the editing at fault; It’s choice of shot. One wonders if they were even driving in some of the close up shots, and I am sure there were repetitions. It cheapens the feel. But then again, the shoddy camerawork has nothing on the even sloppier script.
The penultimate scene threatens to go down a route that made me smile. A good guy starts acting out of character to an extent, and this can only mean one thing. When you clock on to what this will mean for the remainder of the fifteen minutes, you start to smile and nod your head. Could this really, genuinely be happening?! How cool would that be!
But no. The good guy is still the good guy; and this slapdash, violent evisceration of celluloid is still simply mediocre. The closing moments are so preordained and expected, they make the opening tosh seem almost ingenious.
Author: Andrew Mackay