It’s too bad, too, because I was beginning to think Ayer was hitting his stride. In the bloody, profane and muscle-centric “Sabotage,” Arnold Schwarzenegger heads an elite team of D.E.A. special-ops with such “ooh-rah” nicknames as Monster, Tripod and Pyro. The team busts up a drug cartel in the opening sequence, steal a bunch of money and then find themselves being targeted in creatively disturbing fashions. Says federal investigator Olivia Williams when asked if she smokes: “Only when I find my witnesses nailed to the ceiling.”
The brutality-obsessed “Sabotage” will lead you to believe this particular drug cartel spends their days studying the “Saw” movies when they’re not weighing their dope or counting their cash, because every murder in the movie is far grislier than the average Schwarzenegger blow-’em-up. Let’s just say one guy is gutted and shoved into a refrigerator, another is decapitated and yet another has his brains shot out and left dangling from his temple.
But even if you get past the grisliness in “Sabotage,” you’re still likely to notice the lack of momentum due to Ayer’s lackadaisical pacing, which is matched by a cast that is nowhere near as badass as they claim and some horribly misguided screenwriting (Ayer, who also wrote “Training Day,” co-wrote the “Sabotage” script with Skip Woods, fresh from wrecking the “Die Hard” franchise).
Alas, the absolute worst element in “Sabotage” is also the most surprising: Mareille Enos, who gave vibrant performances in both “World War Z” and “Gangster Squad,” is miles beyond awful as a coked-up member of Schwarzenegger’s team whose unstable acting choices are sure to pique the interest of the Razzie committee come next January. She’s that bad.
Schwarzenegger, fortunately, is fine (though what’s up with that greasy parted hairdo, Arnie?). Rest assured he will survive to kill another goon. Ayer, on the other hand, needs to come up with better material.
★ out of ★★★★
Rated R. 109 minutes.
Director: David Ayer.
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Olivia Williams.