Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Vernal Viewing: Sabotage

I've been looking forward to Sabotage for quite some time.  Writer/Director David Ayer has had a hand in some great flicks from Training Day to fucking classic Harsh Times to enjoyable cop thriller Street Kings to the surprisingly solid End of Watch.  He takes a reality based approach to the seemingly tired genres of cops and soldiers but delves into the nitty gritty of the highly trained, under cover agents that operate in the shadows of society's shitholes.  So when I heard Ayer was doing a movie with Arnold, I knew it would be something different that wouldn't try to recapture The King of Kings' former glory and would move him into a new direction. 

Sabotage follows John "Breacher" Warden (Ah-nuld), a living legend in the DEA's under cover unit who has taken down a top cartel leader but lost his family in a retaliatory kidnapping and double murder.  Now, Breacher is obsessed with taking down the bad guys and finding the man who killed his wife and son.  The movie starts with his team taking down a safe house with $200 million in cash sitting in the basement.  Breacher's team hides $10 million and blows up the rest but when they go to retrieve it, the money is gone and soon they are all under investigation by the DEA.  After being cleared of the charges, Breacher's team begins getting killed off one by one in extremely gruesome manners, attracting local Homicide detectives.  After that, it's a slow burn mystery thriller with bits of debauchery and tactical military style action placed throughout.

Hands down, this has to be Arnold's darkest, craziest, bloodiest, funniest, macho-ist, raunchiest, filthiest, bro-down of his career.  His turn as Breacher is more realistic than anything he's done in years, maybe ever.  As a highly trained, motivated leader and operator; Arnold's trademark physicality, sense of humor (an interrogation scene and a remark about 48% body fat had us laughing for 5 minutes) and penchant for cigars makes him badass with a touch of menace instead of a cartoon character.  The supporting cast is superb as well as you get a nearly unrecognizable Sam Worthington (Avatar) as Arnold's 2nd in command Monster, TV star and all of a sudden Arnold BFF Joe Manganiello's Grinder shows off his impressive size and gets one of the best/worst lines in the movie, Josh Holloway from TV's bullshit Lost puts in a funny/wise ass performance as Neck, Pacific Rim's Max Martini shows up as trouble maker Pyro, Terrence Howard plays smooth devil's advocate Sugar, World War Z's Mireille Enos convincingly plays an action and controlled substance junkie while real life military advisor Kevin Vance gives some honest credibility as Tripod.

Co-written by Skip Woods (A Good Day to Die Hard), Sabotage plays like an amplified version of Ayer's directorial debut, Harsh Times, where Christian Bale and Freddy Rodriguez basically drive around Los Angeles drinking and getting into trouble.  That "up to no good" vibe is cranked up here and every character is raw, every other word of dialog is "fuck" and there's booze, tits and guns galore.  Once Breacher's team starts getting killed off, the mystery is well done but when everything is revealed and we head into the final act, the movie can't top itself and seems to shift down gears.  Parts of the flick confused me, such as the inciting incident where Breacher's team steals the money then blows up the rest.  His superiors have a rough idea of how much was there from a parallel FBI investigation but if some of it burned up, how would they know what was missing?  And is the cartel upset that they blew up the money or that they might have stolen some?  Or both?

Sabotage comes on the heels of Arnold's comeback starring vehicle The Last Stand bombing at the box office then his team up with Stallone, Escape Plan, which did peanuts in America but cleaned up overseas.  Opening up this past weekend in a crowded market against Darren Aronofsky's Russell Crowe starrer Noah, defending YA champ Divergent and faith based God's Not Dead, Sabotage opened at # 7 with a pitiful $5.3 million take.  That makes it Arnold's worst opening since the early 80's behind titles like Raw Deal and Red Sonja.  Open Road Films, a relatively new distributer owned by AMC, has had trouble marketing their films in the past as The Killer Elite, The Grey and Sabotage are not your typical slam-bang action picture but instead are actually dramatic thrillers with action.  Props to them for trying to sell the movie on Ayer's past credits and the supporting cast but it just wasn't enough.  Arnold seemed to be everywhere to promote the film and while his internet videos rack up millions of views, that exposure isn't driving patrons to the theater, sadly.  A friend didn't want to see the movie after hearing it tanked but I told him to stop being a mainstream sheep of the masses.  He ended up joining us and having a blast while learning new life skills.

Listen all y'all its a Slap da Chop!

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