- Arnold Schwarzenegger and Mireille Enos: Carnies, bad cops, weirdly watchable.
It's not very often you see a mainstream movie completely lose its shit and fly off the rails the way Sabotage does. This is not a very smart movie—actually, it's dumber than your common houseplant—but it is, at least, a movie that's completely willing to fuck itself up for your amusement. Sabotage is gruesome and mean-spirited and hateful, but if you like your movies to be violent and crazy, you might have a good time with it.
Arnold Schwartzenegger plays John 'Breacher' Wharton, a legendary DEA agent with a tragic past. He leads a crew of agents who are so smarmy, low-class, and rude that you almost wonder if they were all carnies that Breacher recruited to the DEA for some bizarre reason. These are cops with nicknames like Sugar and Grinder and Neck and Pyro. They have neck tattoos and white-boy cornrows and braided beards. They get blind drunk and get thrown out of strip clubs for acting like total fucking assholes. The film opens with the agents skimming ten million dollars off the top of a drug lord's illegal stash, only to have the money stolen out from under them. Then, someone starts murdering the agents, one by one.
Yes, it's a bad-cop bonanza, as delivered to you by David Ayer, the writer of Training Day and director of End of Watch, which practically makes him the patron saint of bad cop movies. But don't expect to see a movie that closely resembles either of Ayer's two famous creations: Rather than Training Day's faux-Shakespearean character portrait, or End of Watch's more journalistic ambitions, Sabotage is all about gore. There are plenty of dead bodies in this movie and those bodies died in all kinds of terrible ways: Drowning, a train wreck, torture, gunshot wounds. The camera lingers, lovingly, on gunshots to the head and bones sticking out of bleeding flesh. At times, it's more butcher shop than cop thriller. (And there's a lot of gay panic and old-fashioned misogyny, too; those looking for a social-justice-minded action movie are warned to look elsewhere.)
But Sabotage has plenty of enjoyable moments. Part of this is due to Schwarzenegger, who is used to great effect. Ayer keeps his star quiet and just watches him a lot of the time, so we can marvel at the weird wood carving that the former governor of California has become, with his simian brow and expansive scowl and fireplug torso. And part of the film's charm comes thanks to Mireille Enos, who basically transforms her DEA agent into the female version of Nicholas Cage here, in an operatic performance that draws the biggest laughs of the movie. By letting Schwarzenegger calmly fill the back of the frame and by pushing Enos to drool all over the cheap seats, Ayer twists the dynamic of the movie from your standard Schwarzenegger vehicle into something much more cattywampus.
Eventually, all the characters smash into each other like action figures in a dim-witted child's deranged fantasy and the movie topples into a pair of climactic sequences that have to be seen to be believed. I don't know if Sabotage was intended to be batshit insane, but that's certainly how it's worked out.