Review: 'Sabotage'

There's a moment of clarity which occurs during every Arnold Schwarzenegger film. At some point time slows down and you think, wait, hold up, this guy was actually the Governor of California? I didn't, like, dream that?

Of course, this doesn't carry too much weight when watching the movies he made prior his time running the world's eighth largest economy. But the movies he's made since then? You'd think, for the sake of his legacy, that he'd choose them a little more carefully. I mean, the recent "Escape Plan" is no masterpiece, but Arnold plays a unique (for him) character — the loose cannon comic relief who screams in German and then, surprise, ends up being a secret genius. In "Sabotage," the ugly, abrasive and thoroughly charm-resistant bag of slop from director David Ayer ("End of Watch") and co-writer Skip Woods ("A Good Day To Die Hard"), Schwarzenegger is the leader of a group of scumbags so deplorable you can't even like them as anti-heroes. Moreover, the film's script is so bankrupt of ideas and lacking in common sense that I couldn't even tell you if the movie wants us to hate them or not.

Does this mean that "Sabotage" is a rich, morally complex story about the gray zone between good and evil? Hell, no. It just means it is a bungle. Schwarzenegger, who goes by the call sign of "Breach," is, naturally, the BEST THERE IS. This time, he leads covert DEA investigations. The film opens with a raid on a drug lord in which his team (mostly a bunch of interchangeable muscle-heads called Tripod, Monster, Pyro and such) attempts to skim $10 million out of the baddies' "cash room." The joke is on them, though, when the stashed dough later disappears.

Soon thereafter, members of the crew start getting killed in increasingly gross ways. In time, Olivia Williams, a homicide detective and the only sympathetic character in the movie, is assigned to the case. Eventually you figure out who the killer is. It isn't a very memorable revelation.

One of Schwarzenegger's crew is played by Mirelle Enos, an athletic woman with long, curly red hair. Her "just one of the guys" qualities include being the butt of lewd cracks, and also being out of control due to a drug addiction. So the only way for a woman to be an agent is to be just as gross as the boys but to also lack their self-discipline. Nice. (Oh, and Williams, ostensibly a professional, is the one who makes the first move with Arnold in the bedroom, even though she's investigating his case.)

The scenes of the former Governor acting like a drunken loser at a strip club will be, undoubtedly, disturbing to some. Schwarzenegger defenders can say "he's an actor, he's doing a role!" but it isn't like agreeing to make this film is some artistic meta-statement. This is a low-class, cheap exploitation crime pic that will only be remembered, if at all, for its extreme violence. There are numerous front-and-center shots to the face. Brains and intestines are all over the place, as are close-ups of puncture wounds and chopped-up body parts. It's disgusting.

The final and worst insult of this movie is this: the last five minutes are terrific. Not the big chase scene — that's cut together in a messy manner. And a previous gun battle jumps to full video game mode for some incomprehensible reason. No, the last five minutes, after we get a little info that tries to make all of Schwarzenegger's behavior relatable, is shot with lurid color saturation, in slow-motion and with some genuine, iconic luster. If the rest of the movie had this sort of visual panache it would go a long way to giving this vapid script the artistic hard edge it so desperately wants. Without this, though, it's just illogical bunk with silly characters and a childish plot. The sabotage of this movie is one perpetrated on itself.