Monday, March 31, 2014

A Reel Review: SABOTAGE

Director David Ayer has made splashes in his career by exploring the dark underbelly of law enforcement; from his Oscar-winning TRAINING DAY in 2001, to his well-received END OF WATCH in 2012. Here in 2014, Ayer goes back to the well for another dip, this time bringing along the actor who used to be the biggest star in the world.
John Breacher (Arnold Schwarzenegger) leads an elite team of DEA agents (including but not limited to Sam Worthington, Terrence Howard, and Mireille Enos) who rage war against the Cartel. When the team unsuccessfully tries to steal money from a drug lord, their members suddenly begin to be assassinated…with the murders investigated by a local detective (Olivia Williams).

SABOTAGE starts off strong. After a thrilling and well-executed raid against a drug lord in which the team fails to make off with $10 million dollars (which vanishes), the stage is set for an excellent whodunit-caper combined with the drama of strong characters pointing the fingers at one another. From there, things go south in a hurry. Director David Ayer and his screenwriter suddenly takes the film on a left-hand turn, and then a right, and then another left, and then turns back around. The film spends enormous amounts of time on what seems like a million subplots; Breacher’s past, an extra-marital affair with the team, the sins of DEA agents, and an attempt at making a family dynamic out of the team. None of these elements work very well together, and it often feels like Ayer and his screenwriter at one time had five different scripts, and simply took the best pages out of each and slapped them all together.
Worse, the film has a horribly amateur-like feel to it. Characters exclaim out loud what they are going to do next as if the audience is too stupid to figure it out, and the film has no sense of style, rhythm, or any sort of heart. The characters within the DEA team, whom we are supposed to feel empathy for, are portrayed as assholes who drink too much and abuse strippers…it’s almost a relief when they start meeting their gory deaths.

Acting is a mixed bag. Arnold Schwarzenegger is given the emotional center of the film but is never allowed to show it. He seems to be there only to fill the frame and swear every two minutes, minus the charming charisma that he’s made a career out of. The talented Olivia Williams is a disaster in her laughable attempt at a southern accent (the film is set in the Atlanta area for no given reason), and Terrence Howard barely shows up at all. Sam Worthington and Mireille Enos do the most and the best work as a violate husband-and-wife team.
After a chase scene towards the finale (in which all of these skilled marksmen suddenly can’t hit anyone or anything with their gigantic guns), SABOTAGE goes into anti-climatic territory by sliding into an Old West-type showdown which sticks out like a sore thumb in a lame attempt to add maturity to the film; lame because it’s so obvious. After all the attempts at clever twists and turns, by the time the curtain is supposedly pulled back on the big mystery, it still isn’t clear who did what to whom and why. In the end, SABOTAGE feels like a film made by idiots for idiots.


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