This film managed to conjure more thoughts of what it could have been, as opposed to what it was.
Writer/directory David Ayer is no stranger to gritty crime-drama’s with films like, “End of Watch”, “Harsh Times” and “Street Kings” under his belt. His newest project titled “Sabotage” gives him one of the most iconic action-stars in Arnold Schwarzenegger as well as what some would consider a star-studded cast consisting of; Sam Worthington, Terrence Howard, Mireille Enos, Olivia Williams, Max Martini, Joe Manganiello and Josh Holloway.
During a raid on a cartel safe house ten-million dollars goes missing and members of a DEA task force find themselves targets, as one by one they begin turning up murdered. When working undercover your team is all you can trust, and that is broken as members of the task force begin to feel there is a traitor among them.
Schwarzenegger is back to his usual antics and this time he’s a DEA task force supervisor which he actually played off really well. With a solid cast you would think the result would me a much more entertaining film but in the end this one seemed to miss the mark for the most part.
The premise was great and while the story had been done before, the who-done-it twist made for some compelling story telling. Unfortunately the dialogue seemed to dumb down the tone of the film and it was hard to really like any of the characters. Not even halfway through the film you can see the talent in the cast, despite looking the part, don’t deliver much by way of character acting, and to sum it up they all seem to be going through the motions.
To the performers credit the script surprisingly did not give them much quality material to work with. Their interactions seemed forced and the macho-bravado was in excess to the point of feeling highly unrealistic. I am not sure what the material in researching undercover DEA agents consisted of but the representation in this one seemed implausible and thus was hard to take serious. Throughout the script this team of DEA agents were able to do whatever they wanted with little repercussion which made the script lose some of its dramatic impact.
In between the spread out sequences of action the script holds a slow pace and takes the viewer to all the familiar spots he have been in other films. Slow or not, the story still is rather intriguing but it starts to diminish as the plot begins to work itself out. By the time the third-act comes around the plot twists begin to get convoluted and as the end-credits begin to roll and the climax had finally twisted itself out, you are left shrugging your shoulders as if to say whatever.
Surprisingly for David Ayer who is comfortable in the genre, he seemed to get muddled up in trying to do too much with the third-act when he should have just let the script play out in much more simple fashion. The plot twists swarm from one to another within short lines of dialogue and for the most part miss out on delivering the impact Ayer hoped.
As for the action, it was well done and carried the film as best it could. The gun-fights are well organized and neatly choreographed and in short moments deliver the viciousness Ayer wanted. The camera is always in the right spot and lets you see the most possible in the short, fast-paced sequences. The action does pull you up in your seat from the somber almost disinterested position the flow of the script puts you in. So for that aspect, action films fans, and in particular fans of Schwarzenegger, this one will entertain but not deliver the enjoyment it could have.
Internet chatter suggested the original cut of this project was close to three-hours long and that the main feel of the film was that of a mystery wrapped in a crime-drama. Producers wanted more of an action-genre story out of this one and it was taken back through the editing room. If this is the case I can see where more sections of story could have added some cohesiveness to the story, and maybe even added some elements to clean up the jumbled third-act.
This movie could have been a solid genre film if it had some more development in the story-line while still giving the viewer bursts of violent action. But as it was this is a rather generic action film that really will go down with the blur of others.
Time: 109 min
MPAA Rating: R (For strong bloody violence, pervasive language, some sexuality/nudity and drug use)