Twitter Plot Summary: A crack DEA team are bumped off one by one after they steal $10 million from a drug cartel.
Five Point Summary:
1. Arnie rocking a funky haircut.
2. Big explosion! Then… lots of not much.
3. They’re getting dead. Or something.
4. More of them getting dead.
5. Ahh, there’s a sting in the tail.
There are two aspects to Sabotage’s plot. The first has that old school 80s action movie vibe, which occasionally rears its head amid a flurry of gunfire and well structured action sequences. The other side of the story is more ponderous, a slow burning thriller as Arnold’s grizzled veteran commander John “Breacher” Wharton, with the assistance of Olivia Williams’ agent Caroline, tries to work out who is killing off members of his team. They are part of a DEA task force who don’t quite play by the rules – they kick things off by stealing $10 million from a cartel, after all.
These two disparate styles often act entirely at odds with one another, creating a disjointed film punctuated by brief moments of action. If it had made efforts to be one or the other then the final result would have been much better. When the action sequences kick off they’re rather good indeed, blood splattering everywhere and lots of people, in the words of Terrence Howard’s Sugar, getting dead. Between those moments are what is on face value a well structured thriller, but to combine it with the big action beats in this way doesn’t work at all.
The fact that the team are being bumped off one by one isn’t so much of a problem, it’s that we don’t get any chance to know the characters in any depth before that starts happening. The best defined relationship is between Sam Worthington’s “Monster” and his on-screen wife Lizzy Murray played by Mireille Enos, but that’s only because they’re married. If that hadn’t been a defined relationship then they would be as equally two dimensional as the rest of them.
Olivia Williams is strong in her role (as she is in everything else) but is wasted in this film – she needs something with more consistency to get her teeth into. The rest of Breacher’s DEA team are as you would expect, competent but nothing spectacular. There will be a few faces you recognise from other things, Sam Worthington and Terrence Howard most notably, but there’s also Josh Holloway in a token “he hasn’t done much since Lost ended” appearance, and Max Martini who some will recognise from Pacific Rim. Mireille Enos meanwhile shows up as the obligatory tough female member of the team, and has a surprisingly solid story arc throughout.
On a more positive note, the antihero Arnold is something we’ve not seen him do before, and roles similar to Breacher are perhaps the best type of character he can play at this point in his career. Furthermore, Breacher is damaged goods following what recently happened to his family, and whilst Arnold doesn’t have that much depth, he manages to carry the emotional weight of this incident without too much concern. Arnold looks like he’s having a bit of fun at least, even if the material he’s given is perhaps not quite on par with his action roles of years gone by. And that’s perhaps the biggest problem with Sabotage: the ideas are there but it falls slightly short of where it was aiming for. A worthy effort, but ultimately it misses the mark.