Dir: David Ayer. US. 2014. 109mins
Gritty and brutally violent police thriller or cartoonish action romp? Sabotage tries to be a bit of both and ends up an uneven, though not uninteresting vehicle for top billed Arnold Schwarzenegger and a solid ensemble cast. While it might not be an easy sell to old school Schwarzenegger fans, this twisty drug war tale from writer-director David Ayer at least suggests that the Governator is willing to stretch a little as he continues on his film comeback trail.
Schwarzenegger doesn’t completely rise to the acting challenge but he does manage some nice moments with Williams, who herself gives the film a refreshingly different dimension.
The QED International production will face some muscular competition when it opens wide in the US through Open Road on March 28 and through independents in other territories over the spring and early summer. But like The Last Stand and Escape Plan, Schwarzenegger’s clunky 2013 comeback efforts, it should be able to make a mark internationally even if it struggles in the US.
Schwarzenegger’s John Breacher is the leader of an elite and rule-bending DEA task force that, in the film’s punchy opening sequence, successfully raids a drug cartel safe house and helps itself to an unauthorised bonus payment. When members of the team start being picked off in gruesome murders, workaholic detective Caroline Brentwood (the UK’s Olivia Williams, from Anna Karenina) investigates, uncovering secrets that begin to turn the drug agents against one another.
Ayer (writer of Training Day and director End Of Watch) puts his noirish stamp on the cop action, but early on the film feels almost like an action comedy, with the drug agents - played by Sam Worthington (Wrath Of The Titans), Terrence Howard (The Best Man’s Holiday) and Joe Manganiello (Magic Mike), among others - as a gang of swaggering outlaws.
Later, though, the focus is more on Brentwood and her developing relationship with Breacher. Looking more his age than usual, and sporting a distinctly uncool haircut, Schwarzenegger doesn’t completely rise to the acting challenge but he does manage some nice moments with Williams, who herself gives the film a refreshingly different dimension.
Production companies: QED International, Crave Films
US distribution: Open Road Films
International sales: QED International, www.qedintl.com
Producers: Bill Block, David Ayer, Ethan Smith, Paul Hanson, Palak Patel
Executive producers: Anton Lessine, Sasha Shapiro, Albert S Ruddy, Geoffrey Yim
Screenplay: Skip Woods, David Ayer
Director of photography: Bruce McCleery
Production designer: Devorah Herbert
Editor: Dody Dorn
Costume designer: Mary Claire Hannan
Music: David Sardy
Main cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sam Worthington, Olivia Williams, Terrence Howard,
Joe Manganiello, Harold Perrineau, Martin Donovan, Max Martini, Josh Holloway, Mireille Enos