A key plot point of “Sabotage” involves Arnold Schwarzenegger’s John “Breacher” Wharton receiving clips of a video. In this video, drug cartel thugs are torturing his abducted wife. It is stomach turning and extremely hard to watch, mostly due to the unflinching way that director David Ayer shoots this disturbing violence.
This happens in the first three or four minutes of the movie. If that sounds like something that you cannot stomach, the next 105 minutes of “Sabotage” will not be for you.
John “Breacher” Wharton is a DEA agent who leads an undercover strike force that is known just as much for their amazing track record as they are for their “work hard, play hard” lifestyle. The team has some interesting dynamics, such as “Monster” (Sam Worthington) and Lizzy (Mireille Enos) being a married couple. There really isn’t anything better than marital bliss that comes from kicking in the doors of drug lords.
“Sabotage” introduces us to the team (which also includes Joe Manganiello, Josh Halloway, Terrence Howard, Max Martini, and Kevin Vance) as the burst into a large mansion used by Mexican drug runners. Their official mission is to find a large stack of cash being kept there, but they have more nefarious reasons.
Once the money is found, the team goes to great lengths to steal ten million dollars. Unfortunately for them, when they go back to retrieve the stolen loot, it has disappeared. The DEA discovers that money is missing and spends six months investigating the team, suspending them all from duty in the process.
From this point on, “Sabotage” becomes a bit of a pot boiler detective story. We are given snippets of some character building of these lunatic law enforcement agents as they finally get back on the job, but none of them can trust each other as they all suspect each other as the money thief.
It all begins to crumble to pieces when one of the team members is murdered. Director Ayer does this with a train crash sequence that is as technically sound and jaw-dropping as any in recent action movie history. It all involves a Winnebago being left on train tracks and then plowed into by a train. A camera show the horrific act by actually being inside the Winnebago as it is hit and a human body tumbles from side to side, with furniture and other items flying through the air.
A local homicide detective, Caroline (Olivia Williams), covers the train accident and she gets entangled in a massive mess that slowly, and actually quite effectively, unravels. Once another team member gets whacked, it’s apparent that someone is out to get them and a strange game of “Ten Little Indians” starts.
If you hadn’t noticed, there’s not much of a revenge story here. There is, however, lots of blood and nail-biting action scenes. There isn’t any cartoon violence. This is in your face and unrelenting. While the actual body count doesn’t get as repulsively high as some action movies, “Sabotage” is still one of the most violent movies ever made.
The plot’s wheels slightly wobble towards the end of the movie, but it actually does a great job of keeping things moving and there aren’t any roll-your-eyes moments. There are a few surprises along the way too, with one being a fairly big twist.
If it is about anything, “Sabotage” is mostly about the insane life that an undercover DEA agent leads. These people have to make drug addicted, cold-blooded murderers believe they are just like them, which leads to some serious personality disorders. This DEA team is loaded with them, from alcoholism to drug addiction, they run the gambit.
This isn’t your typical Arnold Schwarzenegger role. It’s quite possible that every four to five words he speaks is an F-bomb. He’s a tortured soul and Arnold actually does a great job of conveying it. He’s not going to win any awards here, but this may be the best “acting” that Arnold has ever done. He commands the screen, even when his character is severely lacking in morals.
While the other actors, Worthington in particular, are very good, this movie is completely stolen by Olivia Williams. She snipes and jabs at her partner (played by Harold Perrineau), gets excited when she discovers clues and evidence that furthers her case, and is convincingly sickened as she sees things that even a homicide detective cannot stomach.
Also, when Williams and Schwarzenegger share the screen, “Sabotage” is fantastic. Their on-screen chemistry, seemingly unfathomable to comprehend before seeing the movie, is superb.
The real star of “Sabotage” is director David Ayer. The entire movie is shot in a way that puts you right into the movie, which only makes it more nerve wracking. There are two sequences that are extremely unique in the way they are shot and also the way that the chronological order of events is shown.
There is no doubt that “Sabotage” is going to turn many people off. There will definitely be people that buy a ticket expecting one thing, then potentially be chased out of the theater in the first few minutes due to the relentless violence. This movie isn’t for everyone, but if you want to see Arnold Schwarzenegger in a new, unique way, it’s worth checking out.