David Ayer’s Fury was an impressive war schematic for cinema, demonstrating some substantial character curves and atmospheric tension.
David Ayer’s Sabotage is the opposite.
Our film starts with a drug bust, which is to be expected. A couple of guys get shot and we get a couple of one-liners from our cast members, a cast that includes Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sam Worthington, Mireille Enos, Terrence Howard, True Blood‘s Joe Manganiello and Lost‘s Josh Holloway.
There are enough familiar names here that some drug-busting, gun-toting crime-fighting characters should be molded and utilized, yet Ayer spends no time in the creative process. The conflict is set up immediately following the drug bust, which was a mere ten minutes in.
Some films are meant to step on the gas straight out of the gate. You see this with a lot of Jason Statham films and other films that don’t have a lot of familiar names in them. This is partially due to script writing and partially due to not having the talent on-screen to exude character confidence. Films that have only one experienced actor will usually take this route.
However, with all the names I’ve listed above, it seems unnecessary to speed this process up. It feels like a misuse of the talent you’ve assembled. It also seems to be common to build apprehension in a crime-based film but when you press forward with such fervor it’s nearly impossible to accomplish any.
The introduction of a film is the most important because that is when audiences will decide to stay with the film or leave. If I wasn’t writing this review, I would have left. There’s no clincher, no hook to my interest. They run into a drug dealer’s place, shoot a couple guys, bag some money and leave. The fact that I talk like nothing happened is a testament to how unengaging the material is. A DEA task force should provide more lively content than this as well as more enticing characters.
Just like that, we’re already involved in an investigation of the squad. Where did the money go? Who stole it?
Nothing noteworthy is established about any of these characters before they’re being investigated, leaving audiences with little if any interest in subsequent events.
Yet there was still hope here if the film began its character writing in the midst of this investigation, similar to what writer James Vanderbilt did in John McTiernan’s Basic.
Director David Ayer, who aided Skip Woods in the film’s screenplay, passed on that avenue also. The investigation is instead skipped over entirely and serves only as a blight on the characters’ reputations.
The writing worsens from there and looking at Skip Woods’ past work, it shouldn’t have been a surprise. The A-Team was the only film that I felt he found success with. Aside from that, his last three have been X-Men Origins: Wolverine, A Good Day to Die Hard and this garbage.
There are quite a couple of things that don’t make any sense during Sabotage‘s near-two hour running time, as well as some truly malignant dialogue. To reveal an example, John “Breacher” Wharton (Schwarzenegger) and investigator Caroline Brentwood (Olivia Williams) are arguing about why people from his unit start showing up dead:
Wharton: “You spend enough time on the job, the job fights back.”
Brentwood: “That’s bull****.”
That is but one example of a plethora of decrepit combinations of words that will barely satisfy the term “writing”.
The level of writing in their scripts forces the film’s performance onto the shoulders of the actors, who have name recognition but not the talent to make a poor film breach the bearable barrier. Olivia Williams is especially cancerous here, both in acting and in the character she plays.
Which leads me to Schwarzenegger. Bruce Willis, Sylvester Stallone and Arnie were the top-notch stars of the late 70’s, 80’s and 90’s and starting in the late 2000’s, have slowly begun to fall off the horse.
If you exclude the Expendables films, it’s difficult to find the last good film these guys have done where they had a substantial role. Bruce Willis’ would be Live Free or Die Hard in 2007. Since then, he’s starred in both Red installments, which I admit I haven’t seen; Surrogates, which was okay but not great; Looper, which I haven’t seen but apparently no one likes; and A Good Day to Die Hard, one of the worst movies of 2013.
Stallone’s Rambo in 2008 had the dark sentiment war films today are missing. It was a successful installment of the series, an example of what Willis’ A Good Day to Die Hard should have been instead of the butchering of the famous John McClane that it was.
Stallone’s other films haven’t been great but they’ve been far better than Willis’ and Schwarzenegger’s have been recently. The Escape Plan and Grudge Match were at least satisfactory. Not worth revisiting, but they weren’t a waste of my time. Stallone’s still got some hidden gems to work with and aside from the third Expendables film, hasn’t been too far off the mark.
Schwarzenegger has gone the longest without a hit film, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines in 2003. A large portion of that is because he was serving as governor of California, but his re-entry into Hollywood has been abysmal. The Last Stand, Escape Plan and Sabotage have been his newest three and if this is the best that Arnie can do, he needs to hang up the cleats for good. Truthfully, Willis needs to hang ’em up, too. Stallone is the only one really trying to produce quality films these days.
Arnie will always be famous for his great action flicks filled with corny one-liners that we all loved back then, but these films he’s starring in now just don’t work and only succeed in dragging what’s left of his reputation further into the mud. Just stop, Arnie, please?
The characters are hard to tolerate to top it all off, something I’ll elaborate it on in the spoiler’s edition.
Once again, if you’re new to my blog, I’ve always ranked movies on a scale of 0-100 (I don’t know why, I just always have). Here’s the grading scale.
80-89 It was a pretty good movie and definitely one worth seeing, but it doesn’t quite scratch my top ten percentile. (The Cabin in the Woods, Tears of the Sun, Edge of Tomorrow, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Young Guns)
50-59 This movie isn’t intolerable but it’s not blowing my mind either. I’m trying really hard to get some sort of enjoyment out of this. (Zoolander, The Expendables 3, Homefront, G.I. Joe: Retaliation, Vantage Point)
40-49 This movie is just mediocre. It’s not doing anything other than the bare minimal, so morbidly boring that sometimes I’m actually angry I watched this. (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Billy Madison, A Haunted House, 300: Rise of an Empire, Cowboys and Aliens)
30-39 Definitely worse than mediocre, the 30′s ironically define the 1930′s, full of depression, lack of accomplishments, poverty and just so dumb. (Centurion, Planet of the Apes, Stonados, Redemption, Pride and Prejudice)
0-19 Watching this movie resulted in one or more of the following: seizure, loss of brain cells, falling asleep/unconsciousness, feel you wasted your time/day, accomplished nothing for you, left the movie knowing less about it then you did going into it, constantly asking yourself why you came to see this movie, or near-death experience. In short, staring at a wall was just as entertaining as watching this movie. This movie deserved a sticker or a label that said, “WARNING: EXTREME AMOUNT OF SUCKAGE.” (Gallowwalkers, Tucker & Dale vs. Evil, Safe, Watchmen, Clash of the Titans)
My score for Sabotage: 19.
I found myself reading through some of the reviews posted on Netflix. Here are a few of my favorites:
1. “Minus 10 rating. Worst I’ve seen here. Shut off after 1/3 through. It’s disturbing to read positive reviews about this for many reasons. I don’t know how Schwarzenegger could let himself be associated with it except for trying to keep a public image and to make a little money. See for yourself.”
I agreed with everything this guy/girl said except that last part. Don’t do that.
2. “Terrible movie. The ‘acting’ is flat. Characters are one-dimensional. Disgusting unimaginative dialogue and consists entirely of swears. I turned it off after 21 minutes. The movie deserves zero stars but one needs to assign a rating in order to submit a review.”
Did I write this one? I don’t think so but I almost thought I did. The amount of excessive profanity was needless.
3. “Gads, what low-brow, low-rent, trite trash. Cheap cliché after cheap cliché. Gave it 29 minutes. What a total waste. Watching this movie is like staring at an un-flushed toilet. On second thought, the toilet would be a better time. I like Arnold a lot, but this movie is a disgrace.”
I loved the toilet bit, sir.
4. “What a let down. Good people in it, but the script failed them (and us). Arnold’s acting was abysmal. This movie had more clichés than ANY I have ever seen, a 10-year-old could have written it (and perhaps did). Skip it and save two hours of your life.”
Man, these guys are making my life really easy. I should do this more often.
5. “This movie is god-awful. It’s a prime example of why Schwarzenegger needs to end his career. Despite the success Ayer had in the recent war film, Fury, he dropped a fat goose egg with this loser. There’s a fair amount of clichés and despite a formidable cast, the acting is tasteless and almost at a high school level at some points. The dialogue is shuttered, the action is bland and it tries to make it more gross than it needed to be and yet that’s not even done well. This was stupid. Don’t watch this.”
That one is me. Take my advice. Don’t. Watch. This.
*SPOILER ALERT* IF YOU DON’T WANT THE MOVIE SPOILED, STOP READING!!!
These DEA agents don’t seem to care about much of anything, including each other. When one of them dies in a train accident, they have a drinking party. It’s not one of those mournful ones that you would expect either. It’s a raucous, bring-in-the-stripper sort of ordeal. Truly disgraceful and a real way to get the audience to like you. Oh, wait…
The ending’s very anti-climatic and when we learn from our culprit why they started killing all of their former friends, they say, “Because they stole my money.”
I understand money can be a very powerful influence, but this person cut out their friend’s intestines and nailed their body to a ceiling. Like, what is going on here? Was this character always this crazy? There are so many questions about the motivations here that are glossed over.
Our main character, played by Arnie, when the group starts getting paranoid that one of their own is doing the killing, says that all we have is trust. We have to trust each other.
At the end of the movie, Arnie admits to stealing the money, so he can pay off the Mexican police to tell him where the man who killed his wife and son is. What happened to we have to trust each other? He is at least partly responsible for all of his friends’ deaths because if he wouldn’t have stolen the money for himself, the poco locos wouldn’t have come out and started killing everyone. Maybe it would have happened down the road but at least he wouldn’t have been responsible for it and we wouldn’t feel like the main character was a phony the entire movie.