DIRECTOR: David Ayer

CAST: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Olivia Williams, Mirelle Enos, Sam Worthington, Harold Perrineau, Terrence Howard, Joe Manganiello, Max Martini, Josh Holloway


RUNNING TIME: 109 minutes

RATING: 2 stars (out of 5)

Michael O’Sullivan

SABOTAGE opens with Schwarzenegger (pictured) as drug enforcement agent John “Breacher” Wharton sitting in front of his computer screen watching a video of a woman being tortured. He’s obviously disturbed by it, judging by the look on his craggy face. It’s a nasty, brutish job he has.

By the time the movie was over, I shared his dismay.

After that intensely unpleasant prologue, the movie quickly gets down to its own dirty business, jumping to Breacher leading his team of elite commandos in a bloody assault on a drug dealer’s compound. As the bodies of the bad guys pile up, the movie’s mantra – “Target down!” – is evoked again and again as these officers with military-grade weapons move through the house, recording kills. The violence never stops, building to a conclusion that’s harrowing, even by the gruesome standards of today’s action thrillers.

That’s to be expected in a film by Ayer, writer of Training Day (2001) and writer-director of End of Watch (2012). Both those films presented a vision of law enforcement that was more savage than noble. Unlike them, however, Sabotage lacks any artistic perspective on the barbarity.

The plot centres on the investigation of a series of assassinations targeting members of Breacher’s squad. One by one, they start turning up dead, the victims of murders as grisly as they are theatrical. One is found nailed to the ceiling of his house

Apparently, someone is upset that Breacher and his team tried to help themselves to a bit of the loot they recovered at the scene.

Like most of Ayer’s heroes, the “good guys” are all flawed – mostly profane sexist pigs. Ayer would no doubt argue that this honestly reflects the culture of machismo that permeates the high-stress world of Swat teams. While that might be true, it ain’t pretty.

Frankly, it shouldn’t be. But Ayer’s earlier police films also possessed a kind of smart self-awareness, making statements that acknowledged both the convictions and the compromises that enable some officers to carry out their jobs. Sabotage seems less interested in using violence to make a point than to make entertainment.

Schwarzenegger is Schwarzenegger. More nuanced is Williams, playing the detective looking into the string of murders. Perrineau injects a bit of welcome comic relief as her sidekick.

The actors portraying the special-ops team are largely relegated to the role of generic victim, with the notable exception of Worthington. He comes closest to being the film’s moral centre – and I’d hate to tell you what happens to him. – Washington Post

If you liked Pain and Gain or Grudge Match you will like this.