Arnold Schwarzenegger as Breacher
Sam Worthington as Monster
Olivia Williams as Caroline Brentwood
Mireille Enos as Lizzy Murray
Terrence Howard as Sugar
Joe Manganiello as Grinder
Josh Holloway as Neck
Harold Perrineau as Jackson
Martin Donovan as Floyd Morgan
Max Martini as Pyro
Gary Grubbs as Lou Cantrell
“Sabotage” is dumb. Relentlessly, intentionally dumb, sketching its cast of the pride of DEA special forces with the subtlety of the WWE. A terrible piece of adolescent action bait, its relentless stupidity is a drain on the skills of everyone involved with it. And yes, I include Schwarzenegger in that list.
It’s not just because they don’t talk to each other or relate to each other in anyway they curse and strut through a repetitive mixture of sex, alcohol and violence which is supposed to be indicative of the tension of finding themselves being killed off one by one by the drug dealers they robbed (this is a David Ayer’s film after all). An elite strike squad’ of undercover DEA agents, and former soldiers, Breacher and his men spend most of his time in their club house drinking, shooting and giving each other tattoos as if they had escaped from the latest “Expendables” sequel, and doing so regardless of whether they’ve just had a successful training day or discovered a colleague was brutally murdered.
And that goes double for the odd woman in the cast who all seem compelled to out-adolescent the men in order to fit in. They’re less characters than someone’s idea of what teenage and twenty-something boys (and this film is for boys, not men) would find cool inane babble of wannabe tough guy schtick that a college-level screenwriting student should be embarrassed to put on paper. But the level of fail in the screenplay (and most of the problems come down to the screenplay by Ayer and professional tough guy writer Skip Woods) doesn’t bother stopping at the level of bad characterization and dialogue, it goes right on through to terrible structure. You can be sure a lengthy bit of exposition between Breacher and the cop investigating the shenanigans going on around him (Olivia Williams as one of the film’s few bright points) will be repeated immediately with an identical scene in a different location giving you the exact same information you just got. For added points, major character relationships are held in secret until the last minute resulting less in surprise than bewilderment as they literally come out of nowhere.
Ayer’s script has so misused a cast of excellent actors that it falls to Schwarzenegger to provide the film’s gravitas and dramatic center, which he pulls off more often than not, though what success he does have is often more a reflection of how bad most of the other parts are. And when you have a cast with people like Josh Holloway and Terrence Howard in it, that is a tragic waste. It’s only the brief moments Schwarzenegger and Williams are together sparring over what he does and doesn’t know about the murders that “Sabotage” shows any signs of life at all. Even the competent but uninspired action bits do little to alleviate the distaste as the lack of attractive characters also removes any suspense or drama from sequences of bullets flying at them.
It is for all of these reasons together that “Sabotage” is a hopeless excuse of an action film better off burned than watched.