As generic as its title, “Sabotage” wastes no time or effort on such, um, expendables as character, plot, dialog, or making sense. This is all about gut-wrenching (literally) violence, as in entrails-out corpses and sliding around in pools of blood. It is often said of middle-grade movies that if you’ve seen the trailer, you’ve seen the film. Not in this case. If you’ve seen the trailer, you’ve seen a better film than the one playing in theaters. The trailer makes it look like a story of DEA agents vs. drug cartels. And it makes it look like a story with a plot. Ticket buyers might want to contact the Federal Trade Commission for false advertising on both counts.
In Training Day, screenwriter David Ayer had two advantages missing here: galvanizing performance by Oscar-winner Denzel Washington and some emotional heft to the storyline, with Ethan Hawke as the audience’s entry point to the soul-destroying world of combatants in the drug wars. Since then, the soul-destruction has come more from watching his subsequent films than from the degrading violence-for-the-sake-of-violence stories on screen.
Schwarzenegger is no Denzel Washington. And this story has no deeper resonance. Schwarzenegger plays Breacher, the leader of a group of badass DEA agents. They all have tattoos and tough handles like “Pyro” and “Grinder and mad SEAL-level combat skilz. And after they mow down a houseful of presumed bad guys (sparing the children), they say quippy things like “Cleanup on aisle 3.” (This is one of perhaps a dozen sentences in the film without the f-word.) And of course they have the kinds of tight bonds you only get from risking death and killing bad guys together, exemplified and reinforced with visits to strip clubs and lots of high-testosteronic insults about people’s mothers and what everyone’s private parts have been doing. Plus intrusive product placement (apparently) of PBR. Fun for everyone!
Our merry team of marauders lifts a cool ten million from some bad guys, but then it gets lifted from them. So now everyone suspects everyone. As a Justice Department official warns in a typically heavy-handed exchange, trust is like virginity — once it’s gone, it’s gone for good. Breacher’s bosses don’t trust him. The drug dealers they stole from and the other drug dealers they’ve busted over the years want them dead. And, because the gang never got the money, they begin to lose trust in each other.
This gets more volatile and intense as, Ten Little Indians-style, the group starts getting picked off, first the “that guy” actors whose faces look vaguely familiar, and then working up to the bigger stars, one of whom may be behind all of this. The cop investigating the murders is Caroline (Brit Olivia Williams attempting a Georgia drawl), and her sidekick Jackson (Harold Perrineau, apparently visiting from some other, better movie and a welcome bright spot in this one). Oh, they’re all quippy, too, but more adept.
There’s a lot of uninspired, mind-numbing, standard-issue bang bang with ludicrous turns — a corpse nailed to a ceiling, a car chase and shootout in a public place with apparently no interest whatsoever by the local police, an experienced law enforcement officer who neglects to bring back-up to a meeting sure to turn lethal, a woman who finds Schwarzenegger enthralling. He isn’t, and neither is this movie.
Parents should know that this film includes extended and extremely explicit and graphic violence, including rape and torture, with many disturbing images, characters injured and killed, crude and explicit sexual references, nudity, strippers, constant strong and vulgar language, drinking, smoking, drug dealing and drug use, corruption and murder for hire.
Family discussion: How do the experiences of Breacher’s team make them work more effectively together? How do the same experiences divide them?
If you like this, try: “Training Day” and “Internal Affairs”