Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger (The Terminator), Sam Worthington (Avatar), Olivia Williams (The Sixth Sense), Terrence Howard (Prisoners), Mireille Enos (World War Z)
Director: David Ayer (End of Watch)
Writers: Skip Woods (A Good Day to Die Hard) and David Ayer
Runtime: 1 hour 49 minutes
Release Date: 28 March (US), 7 May (UK)
Arnold Schwarzenegger has had a surprisingly hard time since coming back to the movies. Aside from The Expendables franchise (where he only makes glorified cameos anyway), his recent fare has been either critically panned, done poorly at the box office, or both; a real step down for the man who helped define a generation of action movies. So does teaming up with the man behind End of Watch and Training Day seem like a good idea? On paper: sure. But in execution? Unfortunately no.
Skip Woods, easily the worst screenwriter working in Hollywood right now, has struck again with this one, but with Ayer doing rewrites and directing you’d hope he could do something to make Sabotage watchable. But he hasn’t, and what ends up on screen is a sloppy mess. The plot outline seems good in concept, mixing hardcore action with mystery-thriller, but the actual script lets everything down. The pacing is horrendous, making what should feel like edge-of-your-seat thrills feel like a chore. The plot feels needlessly complicated and goes on for too long, and the reveals are so obvious because the film doesn’t cover its tracks well enough. Note to Mr. Woods: when you want to create a mystery, you make it seem plausible that it could be anyone. You don’t go sticking flashing arrows over the culprits, because it not only makes all the other characters look like idiots but it bores your audience to tears. The film’s tone is all over the place too, mixing crude humour with extremely violent imagery but in a way that doesn’t work at all, and even the film’s morals seem mangled and confusing.
Woods seems to only have two character archetypes that he keeps using over and over again: bland or obnoxious. He made Wolverine a stodgy brute, he wrote John McClane as an ignorant blockhead, and now he’s managed the impossible: making Arnold Schwarenegger boring. The man just has nothing to work with here, and so he’s left feeling cold and uninteresting. I get that he’s played a much darker individual than usual, but Schwarzenegger doesn’t pull it off and his character’s motivations are left unclear until so late into the film that you just don’t care. The rest of his DEA team are just as flat. Sam Worthington continues to be the blandest man in movies despite his attempts to look tough, Mireille Enos comes off as so batsh*t insane that you can’t believe this woman would ever work for the government, and everyone else is just forgettable. When Josh Holloway’s name popped up in the credits, I had genuinely forgotten that he was in the movie. That’s how unmemorable most of the characters are. All you will remember about this band of twats is that their banter is annoying beyond belief. The only person I felt any connection to was Olivia Williams, mainly because she spends most of her time calling out all these character on their bullsh*t.
The film has that same gritty look that all of Ayer’s films have, utilising a lot of grimy locales and handheld photography. When the film finally gets to the action scenes, which are spread way too thinly across the runtime, they’re actually not too bad; a car chase near the end of the film I’d even call pretty fun. But it’s not worth sitting through everything else to get to it.
Sabotage holds the honour of being one of the most boring and irritating films I’ve seen in a long time. The story is messy and fails to follow up on its intriguing premise, the characters are one-dimensional and contemptible, and…you know what? That’s all I need to say. You fail at story and character, you fail overall by default. I don’t care if the action’s decent. David Ayer has done much better than this, and hopefully will continue to. As for Skip Woods? All I have to say is: who keeps hiring this schmuck?
FINAL VERDICT: 2/10