(US - 2014)
Directed by David Ayer. Written by Skip Woods and David Ayer. Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sam Worthington, Olivia Williams, Mireille Enos, Terrence Howard, Harold Perrineau, Joe Manganiello, Josh Holloway, Max Martini, Martin Donovan, Troy Garity, Maurice Compte, Kevin Vance, Michael Monks, Gary Grubbs, Mark Schlegel. (R, 109 mins)
Arnold Schwarzenegger's return to movies after a decade in politics has largely found the action icon in self-deprecation mode, poking fun at his age in the sadly neglected THE LAST STAND and cutting loose while Sylvester Stallone played his straight man in ESCAPE PLAN. Those two films, along with his appearances in the EXPENDABLES outings, showed a fully self-aware Schwarzenegger who seemed to be happy just making formula action movies again. Unfortunately, if the word "expendables" isn't in the title, formula action movies with '80s action stars aren't doing very well in the 2010s, so Schwarzenegger tries something different with SABOTAGE, teaming with writer/director David Ayer, who's made a name for himself with tough, gritty L.A. cop thrillers--he scripted the great TRAINING DAY (2001) and the underrated DARK BLUE (2002), directed the frequently absurd STREET KINGS (2008), and both wrote and directed END OF WATCH (2012). Ayer's had some stumbles--his 2006 directing debut HARSH TIMES features what's thus far the only bad Christian Bale performance--but the idea of collaborating with Schwarzenegger had some interesting potential. Unfortunately, SABOTAGE is an almost total bust with only the hints of a better film occasionally peaking through the rubble. I like the idea of an aged Schwarzenegger exploring the dark side of a character who's spent his life in law enforcement and has seen far too much horrible shit, and that comes through in a powerfully effective closing shot that strongly suggests Ayer might've been going for something meaningful, but until then, SABOTAGE is filled with tired cliches, obnoxiously cartoonish heroes, and illogical plotting. It seems torn between being a Schwarzenegger vehicle and an Ayer film, clumsily reaching a happy medium that comes off as an awkward, compromised attempt at the most mediocre of both worlds.
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