Arnold Schwarzenegger has made a career out of starring in bad movies, and Sabotage might be the worst of the lot. I’m not being hyperbolic when I say the film features the most unlikable, obnoxious characters ever committed in film, acting out a tasteless, unimaginative action picture with zero tact. Co-written and shoddily directed by David Ayer — who’s still riding high off writing Training Day 13 years ago — Sabotage is a stupid, ugly, boorishly macho film that’s a bigger mess than all the B-movie blood and guts it spills on screen.
The idea here is that Der Arnold — who is as stiff and uncharismatic as ever — is a hotshot DEA agent tasked with tracking down the most dangerous of drug cartel leaders. He and his crack team of crooked, uncouth gunmen, replete with a plethora of neck tattoos and bad facial hair, open the film by taking down a cartel’s safe house. In the process, they skim $10 million off the bad guys’ giant pile of money that’s just laying around in the basement. All hell breaks loose when the crew’s stash turns up stolen. The DEA opens an investigation into the theft, and the cartel is seemingly hellbent on hunting down and killing each member of Schwarzenegger’s team.
The film’s problems go beyond the piecemeal action scenes and a couple of shots that have the look — right down to the budget, angles and lighting — of a Mexican soap opera. Somehow, the DEA knows $10 million worth of blown-up cash has disappeared, despite Arnie and friends blowing up the cartel’s remaining cash (presumably just to squeeze an explosion into the proceedings). That means there’s a Mack Truck-sized plot hole within the movie’s first ten minutes. Things get increasingly stupid from there. The bulk of the film’s plot centers around the various team members being offed in clever or horrific ways. (It’s kind of like the worst Final Destination movie imaginable.) Finally, we get to the big twist, which has zero to do with the rest of the movie.
Ayer has created an incredibly inefficient movie, spinning his wheels on a lot of murder and mayhem before taking a pointless left turn, never thinking to include a single sympathetic character. Sabotage is crawling with misogynistic, loudmouthed, ignorant people with no redeeming qualities. Even the usually solid Olivia Williams is reduced to an unlikable approximation of Jodie Foster in Silence of the Lambs (1991) — southern accent, short hair and all. The characters’ comeuppances are met with shrugs, something that might be tolerable if Sabotage was any fun. There’s a chintzy airlessness that hangs over the entire movie, from a scene set in Atlanta’s most well-lit, quiet and lightly attended strip club, to a clunky, goofy car chase. The sum of Sabotage’s parts are pretty boneheaded, while Ayer’s insistence on making things as ugly as possible doesn’t help. Rated R for strong bloody violence, pervasive language, some sexuality/nudity and drug use.
Playing at Carmike 10, Carolina Cinemas, Epic of Hendersonville, Regal Biltmore Grande.