Sabotage: Eat the carnage

March 28, 2014


Grade: 79
Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sam Worthington, Olivia Williams, Joe Manganiello, Josh Holloway, Terrence Howard, Max Martini, Kevin Vance, Mark Schlegel, Ned Yousef, Mireille Enos
Director: David Ayer
Rating: R, for strong bloody violence, pervasive language, some sexuality/nudity and drug use
Running time: 109 minutes

By Dan Lybarger for blood, dirt & angels and the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

Arnold Schwarzenegger has made an acting career out of capitalizing on his reputation as “the Austrian Oak.” In the ’80s, his characters went through his movies acting as if the skin that covered his amply developed muscles were made of  Kevlar instead of flesh. With his impassive features, it was frustrating to watch him try playing anything other than a terminator.

With Sabotage, he plays an aging Drug Enforcement Administration special operations team leader named John “Breacher” Wharton who has more to worry about than simply foiling drug gangs.

Wharton’s squad is being investigated for a raid in which $10 million disappeared. Because Wharton’s squad has regularly busted into armed fortresses with homicidal occupants, they tend to look out for one another instead of the rest of the world.


If drug lords don’t scare them, they aren’t likely to squeal to superiors. When half a year goes by with nobody on the team breaking, Wharton finds his squad reinstated.

While they’ve been dormant for six months, the bad guys haven’t been. No sooner are Wharton and his team running new drills than unknown assailants start coming after them. Having disrupted drug operations for countless cartels, it’s easy to see why some of them are secretive about their careers and personal lives.

Worse, some of the team members might not only have taken the missing cash but may have great difficulty sharing it.

As a result, Wharton finds himself cooperating with an FBI agent (Olivia Williams) who is not enamored of his previous achievements.

Screenwriter-director David Ayer made a terrifying creep of Denzel Washington in Antoine Fuqua’s Training Day and gave new life to the police procedural in End of Watch. So it shouldn’t be surprising that he can do interesting things few other directors have thought to do with Schwarzenegger.

This time around the stone-faced action star’s features look as if they’re hiding something, even if Ayer and Ah-nold don’t want to reveal it right away. Draped in shadows (the guy works nights) and seen in glances, it’s easy to wonder if Wharton is as tainted as he is tough.

That shouldn’t be surprising. His team members have issues of their own. One of his top agents (Mireille Enos) has a substance abuse problem, and her agent husband (Sam Worthington), nicknamed “Monster,” seems a little too tightlywound for the job.

It’s a given that Ayer can write (with Skip Woods) biting, profane dialogue and come up with tense, gritty and generally realistic scenarios. Curiously, the verisimilitude that made End of Watch so engrossing is only fitfully available here. If his earlier film presented police work in an unflinching light, Sabotage practically slams a viewer’s face into the onscreen carnage and makes the viewer eat it.

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