A Slasher Movie Disguised as an Action Flick

Unpleasant.

That’s the best word I can use to describe Arnold Schwarzenegger’s latest movie, “Sabotage.”

Other words that would be appropriate include “icky,” “gross,” “bleah,” and “I never want to watch that again.”

2014 movies sabotage

Arnold plays John “Breacher” Wharton, the head of an elite DEA anti-cartel task force, or something like that. On one of their drug busts, they attempt to steal $10 million of drug money. But when they go to where they stashed the money, they find it gone. A few months later, members of the team start getting picked off one by one.

It’s a decent enough premise, one that was allegedly inspired by Agatha Christie’s classic novel “And Then There Were None”, although the movie has nothing to do with the book aside from the basic premise of a specific group of people being picked off one at a time by an unknown/unseen killer.

Generally I like the movies I see in theaters. I’m pretty good at knowing what kind of movies I’ll like, and most of the time when I write about a movie on this blog I’m pretty positive about it.

There is very little to be positive about with Sabotage.

Where to begin? Let’s start with the characters. All of them (with the possible exception of Arnold’s character) are either completely unlikable or have little to no personality at all.

This sucks for a whole bunch of reasons. First off, they’re all played by pretty good actors, so it’s a shame when they either get nothing to do, and/or are so unpleasant that you just don’t like any of them. This means that it is extremely hard to care when they all start being killed in various gruesome ways, which robs the movie of any sort of emotional connection.

Now, I get that people in real life aren’t always nice. Not every person you meet in life is going to be a very likable person. It’s a fact of life. I get that. But the problem with the unlikable characters in this movie is that in order for the plot to work on any sort of emotional level, you have to at least be able to sympathize with them. And none of this movie’s characters (with, again, the lone exception of Arnold’s character) are remotely sympathetic. They’re cocky, arrogant, foul-mouthed jerks. You’re almost glad when they start getting killed, because it means there’s one less asshole around to drag the movie down.

Surprisingly enough, Arnold himself actually gives what I thought was a pretty good performance. He’s very believable as the leader of a group of badasses (as douchey as all those badasses may be), and it’s not hard to believe that the group would fall apart completely if he weren’t around to keep them in line.

sabotage arnold 1

He’s also the only remotely sympathetic character in the movie, which is mostly due to his backstory. His wife and son were kidnapped by the drug cartels and horribly tortured to death.

And this leads us to the movie’s other biggest problem: the violence. You might want to grab a raincoat or something, things are about to get messy.

This movie has enough gore to easily rival just about any horror movie. I have a high tolerance for violence in movies and video games and the like, but even I found much of the violence in Sabotage to be completely repellent.

For starters, Arnold’s character has a video of his family being tortured to death, which he views multiple times throughout the movie. Literally the very first scene in the movie is of him watching his wife being tortured and killed. The first sounds of the movie are of a woman begging for her life.

And it only gets worse from there: entrails hanging from the ceiling, multiple grisly autopsy scenes, and a refrigerator that gushes blood when opened are just a few of the horrors on display. Early on in the movie, I started wondering when my Arnold movie turned into Saw. Seriously, I want entertainment, not torture porn.

sabotage arnold 2

There are a couple of decent action scenes, including a couple of close-quarters shootouts and a pretty good car chase. But even those are splattered with an excessive amount of the red stuff, which makes them not very much fun either.

The movie was directed by a guy named David Ayer, who made a movie called End of Watch a couple of years ago, which was a very good cop movie anchored by a pair of solid performances from Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena as the two main characters.

end of watch poster

It’s a really good movie. If you like cop movies you should check it out. It has good acting, good dialogue, and really great chemistry between the leads. So I had reasonably high hopes for Sabotage, none of which came to fruition, aside from Arnold himself.

Sabotage is just a dirty movie. It’s relentlessly gruesome, it has a triple-digit F-word count, it’s covered in so much grime and filth that I wanted a shower when it was over and I gratefully left the theater. There’s a place for violence in movies, and it’s certainly not impossible to make a movie with unlikable characters still be compelling (Brian de Palma’s Scarface comes to mind).

But in Sabotage, there is no redemption, no emotional connection, and no hope. Just a river of gore and a bad taste in your mouth.

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