Those looking for mindless entertainment, be warned that Sabotage offers roughly 70 minutes of dumb fun, followed by 30 of plain old stupidity. Coming from David Ayer, a filmmaker who cheated on his own meticulously established found-footage approach in End of Watch, that shouldn’t come as much of a surprise but nonetheless makes for an increasingly frustrating view.
Instead of Ayer’s previous film’s inspired camaraderie between police partners Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña, here we get a band of DEA agents, all of whom are adrenaline junkies and the type of people you’d cross the street to avoid. Though it’s somewhat enjoyable when they’re all together raiding practice houses and ragging on one another, when things get serious after a botched theft of cartel money, these Red Bull personalities turn annoying fast.
Led by legendary agent John “Breacher” Wharton (a humorless Arnold Schwarzenegger) this group of Atlanta-based government employees all have names that would be at home on “American Gladiators” (“Monster,” “Grinder,” and “Neck,” to list a few, not to mention the don’t-ask-don’t-tell of “Tripod”). As they’re picked off one by one at the hands of mysterious forces, the high-energy thrills take a backseat to copious bullets to the head and the cast’s limitations suddenly become evident.
The lone female agent, Mireille Enos’ Lizzy (what, women can’t have bad nicknames?) occasionally breaks up the masculine monotony, especially when paired with a whacked out performance and braided goatee by Sam Worthington (playing her husband/co-worker) that should have audiences questioning why the Avatar actor is famous. The usually decent Terrence Howard, Josh Holloway, and Joe Manganiello aren’t much better, but a butchy Olivia Williams as a local police investigator is consistently amusing, if only for the former Rushmore Academy teacher playing against type.
Sabotage all comes crashing down, however, with a third act revelation that’s one of the more idiotic movie decisions in some time. The story firmly established as to unearthing who’s targeting the team and doing whatever possible to avoid a slug to the brain, out of nowhere Ayer introduces a ham-fisted new direction that has next to no relevance in the overall story.
Swatting away a thin but competent premise in favor of randomness, Ayer suggests that his film’s script holds minimal importance, an ironic approach from the guy who still flaunts his Training Day writing credit as if the film debuted last year. Sabotage may not be a complete failure, but until Ayer is able to produce a coherent film (which may or may not be November’s WWII Brad Pitt tank flick Fury), he should have use of that credit put on probationary status.
Rated R for strong bloody violence, pervasive language, some sexuality/nudity and drug use.
Sabotage is currently playing at the Carolina Cinemas on Hendersonville Rd.