Of all of the Arnie films which have been released since The Governator stepped down, Sabotage is by far the most violent. The deaths, of which there are many, are realistic and grim, bloody and remorseless. Bystanders and main characters all meet their doom without fanfare, most of the main crew are unlikable, and you should not expect a happy tale of ending like most of the classics from Arnie’s catalogue. Ayer brings the realism and a well-written script from a dialogue perspective, but the story is uneven, and the characters have essentially no room for growth; these are grunts only good for firing or being filled with bullets.
The film begins with a full-throttle, full-blooded drug heist. Immediately we see that the action movie of today is much more grounded in ‘realism’ than previous decades – the group attacks like a group, using tactics and planning that the writers have pulled from real world scenarios, rather than John Woo or Commando attacks. Our group are part of the DEA, but it transpires that they have plotted to wipe out the bad guys, burn most of the money, and keep $10 million for themselves. However, someone double crosses them and their money is lost, setting the rest of the plot in motion. There is intrigue, mistrust, fragile brotherhood, paranoia, and a lot of bloodshed as the group tries to cover their own tracks while investigating who stole their money – the tension heightened when they begin to get picked off.
As an action film, the movie ticks all the boxes – the gunfights are varied, realistic, and exciting – well-executed and convincing, and with a trilling car chase conclusion. The plot as a whole is fine, offering a number of twists and plenty of funny dialogue. The problem though is that everyone is a jerk, and the films offers little in the way of characterization or attempts at empathy. Arnie’s family are killed – we don’t care. The group are picked off one by one – we don’t care; in fact, the group themselves don’t care. They are presented as a close-knit force which has been through all kinds of hell multiple times, yet when they are killed off in increasingly gruesome ways, none of them seems to mind that they have lost a friend or that they may be next. Each of the characters relies on machismo and violence, but not a lot else, meaning there is little or no distinction between them – one is a woman, one is married to the woman, one has muscles, another has bigger muscles etc etc. It’s a pity, because it wastes what is an otherwise stellar cast. If we got a bit of background on each, or even – Aliens style – a few moments or examples of individuality whether it be a look, a quote, a style of speaking, it would have been a stronger film. The films does try to do this with a collection of haircuts and accents, but it fails as a whole.
The story almost tries to throw too many twists, and too many characters into the mix. I can’t say that it keeps you guessing, because you likely won’t care enough to guess, but I wouldn’t say it is predictable. It’s all about the action and the bloodshed, and it does give an unflinching look at a world most of us would never want to glimpse. It’s great to see Arnie back to doing what he does best, although his finest moments come towards the end of the movie. The rest of the cast, or stunt cast, are exemplary in the set-pieces, as are the special effects. Arnie has a similar gruff persona to his role in End Of Days, but with less charm, while the rest of the cast do well in their roles – they may not be likable, but they’re good at convincing us of that fact. Action movie and Arnie fans should be happy with the movie, but those expecting something more, or those hoping for another Arnie classic, may be disappointed. It’s still a decent entry for Arnie, with stronger action than his final few pre-Governator films, but doesn’t come close to the likes of Predator, Commando, Terminator, or Conan The Barbarian.
Have you seen Sabotage? How do you think it compares to recent action movies and Arnie movies of old? Let us know in the comments!