Considering director David Ayer’s preceding production was the absorbing and creative End of Watch – a film that breathed new life into the buddy cop drama – it’s a shame to see his latest picture Sabotage go much the other way, as the talented filmmaker retreats back to convention with a horribly hackneyed and clichéd offering.
Arnold Schwarzenegger returns to the big screen as Breacher, the menacing leader of an elite DEA task force, who find themselves in severe danger when pursuing a notorious drug cartel. Though highly skilled in their profession, agents such as Grinder (Joe Manganiello), Monster (Sam Worthington) and Sugar (Terrence Howard) are not prepared for the forthcoming onslaught, as they find themselves being picked off one by one. Breacher, in the meantime, continues fervently on with a personal grudge of his own, as he intends on seeking vengeance against the cartel following their capture and torturing of his family.
There’s a sense of traditionalism to Sabotage, and a definite nod to classic actioners of old (many of which had in fact starred Schwarzenegger in them too), and while in some respects this approach serves the story well, it’s what ensures this picture is devoid of any unique identity. Ayer attempts to have his cake and eat it too, as while inspirations from 80s and 90s thrillers are rife, he doesn’t implement that witty dialogue and often cheesy one-liners, in turn for a more sincere, solemn affair – and the film is lacking in that sense of playfulness. Nonetheless, Arnie is as infallible as ever, though sadly he’s surrounded by a series of immensely unsympathetic characters. The DEA agents are supposed to be our protagonists, yet rather than give them our support, we merely root for their demise, which defeats the object somewhat. You want to adhere to their banter and charisma, but they’re words are often vulgar and offensive, and their behaviour even more so.
Though relatively enjoyable in parts, you can’t be blamed for expecting something a little more creative and ingenious from the man in the director’s chair. Still, the one positive is that Arnie has followed on from The Last Stand and shown that beyond a stint in government, he’s still just as much of an action hero as he’s ever been. You wouldn’t catch Boris Johnson doing this after all.