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"SABOTAGE"
(2014) (Arnold Schwarzenegger, Olivia Williams) (R)


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QUICK TAKE:
Action: After robbing $10 million from a drug cartel, members of an elite DEA team start getting picked off one by one, drawing the attention of a local homicide detective.
PLOT:
John 'Breacher' Wharton (ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER) is the leader of an elite, undercover DEA team that's out to nab the most notorious names in the drug world. His team consists of James 'Monster' Murray (SAM WORTHINGTON) and his wife Lizzy (MIREILLE ENOS), along with Joe 'Grinder' Phillips (JOE MANGANIELLO), Julius 'Sugar' Edmonds (TERRENCE HOWARD), Tom 'Pyro' Roberts (MAX MARTINI), Bryce 'Tripod' McNeely (KEVIN VANCE) and 'Smoke' Jennings (MARK SCHLEGEL).

While raiding a cartel mansion, they come across a huge sum of money and plot to steal and conceal $10 million of it down a toilet pipe. But when they later return through the sewer to collect it, the money is gone and they soon find themselves investigated by the Feds about the missing money.

When they're eventually exonerated and returned to full duty, the rust shows and the team camaraderie feels off. That's only exacerbated when team members start ending up meeting grisly demises, a development that draws the interest of local homicide detectives Caroline (OLIVIA WILLIAMS) and Jackson (HAROLD PERRINEAU). As they start investigating the murders, the remaining team members try to figure out who's targeting them and eventually start to believe it could be one of their own.

OUR TAKE: 3.5 out of 10
As Kenny Rogers used to sing "You got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em, Know when to walk away and know when to run." While those lyrics were about gamblers and gambling, that sage bit of advice can obviously apply to other vocations and aspects of life. Some said that about Brett Favre who didn't seem to know when to quit being a quarterback. Many, at least in the DC area who aren't supporters, have said the same about Marion Barry and his role in politics.

And then there's Arnold Schwarzenegger, the one-time undisputed box office champion of action movies. People would flock to his flicks to see the visual and sometimes visceral mayhem, along with the now legendary one-liner quips thrown out at just the right moment. But then the actor became the "Governator" and ran California's government from 2003 to 2011. At that later point, many would have expected the then 63-year-old to ride off into the sunset and enjoy the spoils of his time in both Hollywood and Sacramento.

Against all better judgment, he returned to the big screen in "The Expendables 2," followed by "The Last Stand" and "Escape Plan." With the last two combining to make just $37 million at the domestic box office, it perhaps seemed the time had come to follow Mr. Rogers' advice. Instead, Arnie returns once more in "Sabotage," a hard-edge, testosterone-laden, dramatic thriller that seems to be trying too hard to mine material from one of Schwarzenegger's better action pics from years gone by.

And that would be "Predators," director John McTiernan's mean, lean and highly effective sci-fi action flick from 1987. In that, Arnie leads a highly armed and elite, but rough and tumble, spittin' and cussin' team into the jungles of Central America on a mission. But then they start getting picked off one by one, nearly always in a highly grisly fashion by an unknown killer. The flick clearly wasn't for everyone, but from an action standpoint it was superb, not to mention an interesting adaptation of the old "The Most Dangerous" game plot.

Here, Schwarzenegger leads a highly armed and elite, but rough and tumble, spittin' and cussin' team on a DEA bust mission and later end up in the concrete jungle of Atlanta where various members end up meeting grisly demises at the hands of an unseen killer. Alas, the reveal of the latter is nowhere as interesting let alone exciting as the same of the title character twenty-seven (!) years ago, and screenwriter Skip Woods simply doesn't provide enough compelling storyline to make us care.

It certainly doesn't help that director David Ayer takes a far more harsh and quasi-realistic approach with the material, although that's not unexpected considering he previously helmed the likes of the gritty cop dramas "End of Watch" and "Street Kings." The problem is it all starts to feel a bit like a snuff film, what with the various kill shots shown in all of their glory and surrounded by macho men while the women are either portrayed as sexual objects or equally macho figures (the latter applying to Mireille Enos as the lone female on the DEA team).

Olivia Williams ends up being both, mostly playing the foul-mouthed, won't back down homicide detective but also the women who unexpectedly decides to have a romp in the sheets with Arnie's character. That and the shoot 'em in the head violence is all male fantasy type junk, without the jaw-dropping, stomach-churning realism of say, "Saving Private Ryan" or the wink-wink approach of the likes of "Predator" and others of their ilk.

Beyond the "who's killing them" plotline, there's also an introductory story element that's never played to its full potential. And that revolves around the team stealing and hiding $10 million during a DEA mission bust, only to return later to discover their hidden stash has been swiped. They're initially accused of the crime, but then exonerated and that plot element is only then used (at least until the end when "the big secret" is revealed) to fuel the belief that the cartel is killing them for revenge.

A lot could have been done with that scenario, but the powers that be were apparently more interested in slathering as much high octane testosterone on the proceedings as possible rather than engaging us. And, probably to no one surprise, Schwarzenegger is the weak link in terms of the drama and acting, and stands out like a sore thumb from the rest. By the time the last big action set piece occurs, all I could hear was "You never count your money when you're sittin' at the table. There'll be time enough for countin' when the dealin's done." It's time to tally up your earnings, Arnie, and let fans remember you from your prime. "Sabotage" rates as a 3.5 out of 10.




Reviewed March 25, 2014 / Posted March 28, 2014


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