Lowdown: A DEA undercover team has to defend itself when it’s alleged to have stolen money from drug lords.
One of the nicer tricks pulled by Terminator 2, a movie full of nice tricks, was playing on audiences assumption that Arnold Schwarzenegger’s character is a baddie when, in fact, he’s a goodie. You've seen the previous movie; you "know" he's a baddie. T2 stretches the point for as long as it can by utilising various techniques like lighting, camera angels and ominous sounds. More than twenty years later, Sabotage tries a similar angle, placing Schwarzenegger at the centre of the action while placing doubt in the viewer’s mind as to whether he is a goodie or a baddie.
We know right from the start there is something unusual going on here, with Sabotage’s exposition showing us Schwarzenegger watching a weird video before commencing with the movie properly. It is once the film starts that we learn the basics: John (Schwarzenegger) is the leader of a crack DEA team that boldly goes into the heart of drug lords’ realm for the kill. And to steal, too, from the baddies loot, which is why the law authorities turn into as menacing an enemy to John and his team as the drug lords themselves. The millions might have been worth the trouble if they were there in the first place, but through what seems to be a double crossing they aren’t.
Our team of high volume macho men (including one portrayed by Sam Worthington) and an ultra lethal woman is thus left virtually to itself as it tackles drug lords, the DEA and what seems to be a traitor from the inside. It’s not going well for the team, let me tell you that. All the while there is that dark secret in the back of viewer’s heads, the one from the exposition.
The differentiator separating Sabotage from the rest is not Schwarzenegger but rather style. Sabotage goes for the ultra visceral, in your face type reality look and feel. John’s team are mucho-muchacho, the type that takes their machine gun along to the toilet just to make sure and uses toilet language to express itself. Body parts and violence not normally seen on the big screen complete the package. Make no mistake about it, Sabotage is not just another movie milking the famous Schwarzenegger bold hero image.
Praise has to be directed at Schwarzenegger, who is proving through Sabotage and The Last Stand that he will not do the same movie again and again Stallone-wise but rather go exploring different directions and styles. Sure, I didn’t really like Sabotage’s direction, but it’s much better than a Rocky 8. Even if Schwarzenegger proves yet again he’s not the world’s best actor, he certainly proves that even at his age originality is not unheard of.
Overall: Not my cup of action flick but also not something we’ve seen before, either. 3 out of 5 crabs.