For someone like me who watches multiple films every week it’s not often that I find myself in a situation where I am more or less clueless about a movie till a few hours before I watch it. And if the movie happens to feature a good star cast headed, by one of my favourite stars from childhood it gets quite surprising. Add to it a director who is respected for his previous work and then you really wonder how did this just happen? 🙂 That’s what happened to me with Sabotage this week, a film which has a solid ensemble cast headed by the one & only Arnold Schwarzenegger and directed by David Ayer. His previous film End of Watch was quite appreciated for the documentary style realistic way of looking through the daily lives of two young cops in Los Angeles, who are partners at work and best of friends. Needless to say once I realized the people involved in the film, I would be lying if I say that I wasn’t excited to watch the film.
The film starts off in an interesting, yet morbid fashion as we see Breacher (Arnold Schwarzenegger) watching a video of a woman being tortured and the action begins, literally immediately. Breacher, a star officer in the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration), leads his team of expert DEA agents for what looks like a routine drug busting operation in a drug dealer’s sprawling property. During the process Breacher and his team decide to siphon off 10 million dollars for themselves and store it safely, only to return later and find it missing. The DEA puts Breacher and his team into scrutiny for the missing money but all of them stick to the same point- they have no idea where the money is or who took it. As the investigation drags on, Breacher is seen doing a boring desk assignment and bearing the taunts of his colleagues reluctantly. His team members on the other hand while away their time having nothing worthwhile to do.
Soon the investigation closes as the DEA feels its heading nowhere and Breacher is given another chance to redeem himself and his team and they are back into action. While Breacher and his team are elated to get back together and focus on what they are good at, their happiness is short lived. One by one members from the crack team start ending up dead in bizarre fashion. What happens from thereon is what David Ayer tries to tell us in the rest of the film. The first half of the film chugs along relatively fine and the initial drug busting operation is handled quite deftly. Action is something that David Ayer has always been noted for and he gains our attention right at the very beginning by the brutal, very brutal action sequences. But then as the movie progresses you get to see blood, lots and lots of it which can really be a put off actually now that I think about it.
It doesn’t need any effort to deduce that the missing money and the torture scene shown in the film initially would be connected to all the deaths that keep happening, one after the other. So things really get a little too predictable in course of time. And quite frankly apart from the ensemble star cast there isn’t much in the film which keeps you hooked right till the end. While I still wonder why there has hardly been any buzz about the film before the release, I am startled to know that the film was completed a year ago itself apparently. Of course the characters are all grey, there’s no one here in the film who’s unilaterally ‘clean’. Nearly all of them are have different dimensions to themselves. Lizzy Murray (Mireille Enos) is clearly a drug abuser herself, the rest of the boys in the team are happy to create a ruckus in local bars and beat up people without any feeling of regret. It is almost as if David Ayer wants to tell us that this is the truth, one doesn’t have to deify people in uniform always.
When Caroline Brentwood (Olivia Williams) and her colleague Jackson (Harold Perrineau) start investigating the murders, there are a few scenes which bring out a smile on your face. Like when Caroline and Breacher get intimate and later Jackson teases her about it, but then these moments are far and few. But Olivia plays her part well and brings some charm to the proceedings once she makes her appearance in the film. Among the DEA team members apart from Lizzy Murray it’s only her husband James Murray (Sam Worthington), and Julius Edmonds (Terence Howard) who get some prominence in the film. The others really have nothing much to do in the film actually apart from lending their physical presence :). Also what’s surprising is to see that David Ayer seems to have been confused in terms of how to end the film. Just as the film steers towards a Reservoir Dogs sort of moment, there’s a twist and the film heads for a second climax. At this moment whatever little suspicion one has comes through as the film ends up as a true blue B grade actioner, where David Ayer seems to undo everything by saying realism can go take a long walk :).
For people like me who grew up on Arnold Schwarzenegger’s action films there is a feeling of nostalgia that will prevail as you see a pumped up (but older) Arnie still firing away to glory. Ever since he has got back to films actively post his stint in politics he has basically been doing films which remind us of his glorious past, but not something that we’ll in anyways laud him for. Here again with Sabotage the same thing repeats as it eventually turns out to be just another slam bam actioner that we have seen enough and more already, except that it’s got a little polish to the whole thing. Looking back at the film I somehow get the feeling that there was a potentially good film over here which just didn’t turn out the way it was intended. For those who are fond of violent actioners to pump up your adrenaline (so what if it’s a “been there, seen there” feeling) and/or if you are a die-hard Arnold Schwarzenegger fan maybe there’s still something in it for you. As for the others, well I can’t think of anything that might entice you enough.