Directed by: David Ayer
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sam Worthington, Josh Holloway, Terrence Howard, Olivia Williams
Arnold Schwarzenegger at one time was one of the most successful action film stars in Hollywood. He disappeared from film for a while to go into politics and there were other very public situations that one might blame for his limited success now that he’s back in movies. I would have blamed these issues too but I just don’t think that’s the situation now. I think there are two things to consider; the first is that the movies he has done since returning to Hollywood have not been good and America’s tastes have just changed. Being a child of the 80’s and 90’s I still love a simple action film but this generation doesn’t seem to know how to have fun with these movies anymore. A movie like Lethal Weapon would probably flop nowadays. It’s sad because the truth is that as dumb as these movies are they are still better written than the current crop of successful action films that hit theaters. Hollywood hasn’t figured out what the public wants in an action movie in this era and aging stars like Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis are paying the price with weak movies and the good ones not getting watched.
Arnie did make a good decision with Sabotage though; he sought out a director for the film he liked. He had apparently become enamored with the film End of Watch and he wanted that films’ director David Ayer to come make Sabotage a good film. Ayer does bring much of his signature style from End of Watch to the dramatic elements of Sabotage, and those moments are some of the best in the film. Other great moments happen at the beginning of the film when Schwarzenegger is leading his team of DEA agents in total Predator style. These scenes are a gritty modernization of the classic action movie formula. The problem is that the two very different elements don’t always mesh well leading to a film with inconsistent pacing and a story that doesn’t deliver enough action bravado for fans of that genre and too much of that bravado for viewers looking for something a little more provocatice from Schwarzenegger.
Arnold plays the leader of a team of very successful DEA agents that stretch the law to get results, but they are allowed to do so because they do in fact get results. Things change when they are accused of stealing $10 million from a drug bust. They did in fact take the money, and they did get away with it but the money disappears and they begin accusing each other of stealing it, then they start to die one by one. So after a great deal of action the film slows to a crawl as it works its way through the mystery elements with Schwarzenegger’s character Breacher (a little on the nose for a character name there) working with homicide detective Caroline played by Olivia Williams. So you have settle yourself into a very different film, something character driven and more mysterious after all of the action in the first act. What happens next is you start to pay attention to the acting. Schwarzenegger actually does a good enough job and he’s as charismatic as ever. The problem comes from everyone else who either seem to be way over hamming it up or they have taken on accents that they can’t maintain constantly throughout the film. A drinking game could easily be developed that has you take a drink every time Olivia Williams’s southern accent drops. Josh Holloway (LOST) is normally a pretty solid actor but a little hammy. In this film he becomes absolutely ridiculous. The same goes for most of Breacher’s team; they just aren’t good actors.
The final reveal of the mystery takes the film back into the action zone and some of those scenes are pretty entertaining but nothing we haven’t seen before. In fact there’s an extended car chase scene that is pretty exciting but that sort of scene wastes Schwarzenegger’s assets in a film like this one.
Sabotage is honestly not a terrible film it just has an identity crisis and some incapable actors that both hold the film back.
The 1.85:1 aspect ratio 1080p transfer here is really solid with high detail and a nice color pallet that really recreates the feeling of the film theatrically. There’s some film grain here but artifacting is minimal as aliasing and other common issues. Nighttime scenes do a pretty good job oh holding ont the detail and keeping the blacks nice and inky dark. In closeups you can see every crevice in Arnie’s aging mug. Occasionally the heavy color shift in the image can wash everything out a bit. Overall the image quality is very solid as it should be for a film that made the move to home video so quickly.
Universal delivers the film with a English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track that sounds great, particularly during the heavy action scenes. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and easy to hear. The quieter scenes don’t seem to take advantage of the sound stage as much though. These scenes could really offer up more opportunities to immerse viewers in the world of the movie. It sounds great don’t get me wrong, just a little more artistry in the subtler areas would have made the whole experience pop a little more. Outside of that complaint gun shots are teeth rattleing and car engines roar, all is good.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
The combo DVD/Blu-Ray/digital set comes stuffed in a standard blu case with a slip cover featuring the same art as the main cover. You knew the art would feature all of the main cast names but at least their heads aren’t just floating above a pile of money or an explosion or something like that. There was better poster art than what Universal chose for this cover though.
The biggest bonus feature here is a making of documentary. The featurette feels a little too marketing driven but there are some nice bits of information here and there including Arnie revealing how many times he watched End of Watch. It’s worth seeing but nothing ground breaking, kind of like this movie I suppose. There are some terrible alternate endings too. It’s good these ideas were scratched because they just don’t work, none of them. There are also deleted scenes that needed deleting. Where’s the trailer? Also, where’s the audio commentary?
Sabotage isn’t horrible, and I don’t mean that to sound as bad as it does. In many parts it’s entertaining. The movie just has so many issues working against it that it ends up being a miss overall. Schwarzenegger is great in the role but not much else around him holds up.