Let me just start by saying the excitement I felt when I heard David Ayer (Director of entertaining modern thrillers and dramas like Harsh Times and Speed Kings) was working with Arnold Schwarzenegger (Iconic movie legend and star of The Terminator movies and Commando) on an exciting looking thriller called SABOTAGE. It was truly going to be lightening in a bottle.
The star cast would also include explosive talent such as Sam Worthington,Terrance Howard and Olivia Williams.
Spoiler Warning - While I try not to give too much plot details away, it cannot be helped when reviewing a movie such as this.
The movie starts with a team of elite DEA agents led by John 'Breacher' (Arnold Schwarzenegger) who are raiding the warehouse of an extremely dangerous cartel. Get ready for some detailed on-screen violence. The DEA team decide to steal $10,000,000 from the warehouse (This scene to me was a bit unbelievable) how or why a team that is so professional, decide to steal $10 million is not really given much credence (Later on, one of the team suggest it was to cheer up John Breacher.).
Anyway the money is put into a bag and thrown down a manhole for the team to return to later, during their escape from the cartel warehouse (Why wouldn't they simply carry it out with them?).
Anyway after a choreographed explosion created by Arnold, the team en route through the underground sewers, are surprised when the money bag has disappeared. At this point I was disappointed by the unbelievable performances during the reaction of the missing money. A bit of huffing and puffing from the DEA team, a bit of bad language and then the team continue on their route. Why wouldn't such a specialist search and destroy team search the area for $10,000,000? It obviously means one of the criminals is still alive or someone is screwing around with them but this idea is not even explored. Yes I was questioning the writing and directing at this point but I was still thinking (And hoping.) this was just a plot hiccup or a device for more action to come later in the movie.
The movie however at this point turns into a drama with the DEA team being investigated for the missing money. The director David Ayer could have done with boosting up the action and thrills at the start but he is no James Cameron and in terms of the violence which was gratuitous and doesn't serve the shock value it is trying to give it's audience (Throughout the film you see excess bullet entry and exit wounds, causing pools of blood in slow detail, it's never interesting, let alone thrilling, it has a highly desensitised effect.) and the same can be said of the poor drama given with the interplay between the supporting cast.
Sam Worthington and Terrence Howard, two very able actors, are never given a chance to develop their characters into anything interesting. Instead we get a lot of groaning, swearing, back slapping and arguing between the team, nothing that really establishes their character development. The beautiful Mireille Enos is given a rather two dimensional role of 'Murray' the crazy drug addicted girl in the group and she supplies some action and seems to be there as someone to throw insults at her team mates.
The supporting cast playing the DEA team are so irritating (And I am not talking about the actual characters of the story, I'm talking about the way the actors perform the said characters.) You will start to forget that this is the same director that brought you 'Harsh Times' (Which had exceptional performances, great story build up and thrilling characterisation). And as the team unsurprisingly gets picked off by an unknown assassin, I was not feeling sorry for them.
However while the supporting cast in SABOTAGE do not pull off any strong performances; I really liked the performances of Arnold Schwarzenegger 'Breacher' and Olivia Williams who plays 'Caroline Brentwood' (She plays a cop who is investigating the DEA team.). These two characters work so well together on screen (yet they are not given enough screen time). Why the director did not take advantage of the fact that he had an iconic movie star like Schwarzenegger in the movie is baffling, because every time Schwarzenegge is on the screen and says any dialogue, it is powerful. In fact Arnold is the best thing about this movie and saves it from being a total failure.
The love scene between Brentwood and Breacher happens off screen, making it disappointing because it is the one thing in this movie that has an interesting build up, with good character foreplay between Breacher and Brentwood. And because these are the only two characters you care about in the entire film (A credit to the performances of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Olivia Williams), the action scene that follows with the two of them chasing the two main villains (Minus the irritating supporting DEA team), in a car chase, is the only time you will get excited in this movie.
[Sabotage](movie:396544) could have been great had it not wasted time exposing the performances of the supporting cast which weren't fully developed, had this been a Michael Mann or a Quentin Tarantino movie, yes there would have been more character development, and the extra time given to the supporting cast would have paid off (because the scripting and direction would have been better.) however David Ayer is not a Michael Mann or a Quentin Tarantino and the movies fails at trying to be something other than it should be.
There are some touching scenes of Arnold when he sees his kidnapped wife being tortured by The Cartel. This is a build up to the revenge twist of the story but it is so little and too late. Had these elements been explored at the beginning of the movie it would have created some tension, and the missing $10 million could have served better as a sub-plot of the story rather than the main focus.
Sabotage feels about a half hour too long even though its less than 2 hours and this is because there is too much time wasted on showing things that didn't need showing (Supporting cast and irritating murder and investigation scenes) and it also cuts things out that needed to be there (More character foreplay and relationship between Brentwood and Breacher).
Had the movie just been about Brentwood and Breacher with the revenge element serving the main focus of the story, concentrating just on the action surrounding these two characters and their developing relationship, the movie could have had the possibility of being one of the best thrillers in recent years. But unfortunately there is just not enough time given to the real stars of the movie (Arnold Schwarzenegger and Olivia Williams) and that's where it ultimately fails.
If you are expecting something along the lines of The Expendables or Heat, forget it, if you want to see something that could have been great and shows some real acting talent from Schwarzenegger then it's worth a watch.
I give this movie 6 out of 10 and that's just because it's based on a great idea and has great performances from Arnold and Olivia. The movie itself is disappointing and could have been brilliant had there been more time spent in the editing suite. Maybe there will be a Special Edition or a Directors Cut, resolving the extra scenes, when it's released on Bluray and DVD. Hopefully.