On Tuesday, I went to see Sabotage with my brother. Now I’m used to seeing pretty bad films with my brother. The truth is, my brother has no taste. I’m not being cute here. I mean literally that he has no taste. He’ll watch anything. So Arnold Schwarzenegger was in this film and away we went! But it was even worse than I had expected. It is very possibly the worst film that I’ve ever seen.
The basic setup is not too bad. Schwarzenegger heads a crack undercover DEA team that supposedly infiltrates drug rings and then takes them down. There is very little infiltration and lots of taking down, but whatever. This team, however, decides to steal part of the money they recover. But before they can retrieve the money, it is stolen by someone else. The rest of the film, in as much as it has a discernible plot, involves the various recriminations.
That’s all fine, I suppose; it could have been a typically bad action film but nothing too traumatic. But the story bounces all around. First there is the investigation by the DEA who think that the gang stole the money because they just happen to know exactly how much drug money there was because of “a concurrent investigation.” And then, after this six month period of time, the gang gets back together because the DEA doesn’t manage to break them. That’s when they start being murdered one at a time. And that’s when the foul mouthed female homicide detective shows up. The script plays around with making her important but can never really decide and finally just abandons her. And it only gets worse. Plus it is sandwiched inside of a most pathetic plot about Schwarzenegger’s family being tortured to death by some drug dealers.
None of this is made any better by the fact that the crack undercover DEA team looks like each member went to Dog the Bounty Hunter for fashion advice. I don’t know what’s gotten into Hollywood recently, but these guys do not look tough; they look like shower rape victims in a bad prison movie. The only one of them who really looked tough was Mireille Enos as the junkie DEA agent Lizzy. This does, I suppose, make the Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry style ending of the film ever so slightly less ridiculous. But it all does depend upon you believing that international drug lords are a bunch of puffs.
I find it constantly amazing that films about evil drug dealers portray the supposed good guys as doing nothing but drinking to excess. This movie does not only show this but very clearly shows that all the members of the gang commonly drive while plastered far past the legal limit. But as usual in these kinds of films, characters are not “good” because of their actions but rather definitionally. They are good because we say they are good. This causes the unfortunate situation where the “bad” guys are the only ones in these films who have actual motivations. But in Sabotage there is no problem because they aren’t given any motivation either.
I’m a keen observer of films. But in this one, I really couldn’t say what had happened. No film plot is without some holes, but this one was nothing but. For example, Schwarzenegger’s character allows all of his friends and many other innocent people to die in the name of getting revenge for the murder of his wife and son. But he was in a position to trade his wife and son for himself and he did not. Of the people killing the team members, one has an incredibly stupid reason and the other has no reason at all. A better name for the film would have been “Vengeance,” because according to the characters, nothing else matters besides getting revenge for wrongs done you, regardless of whether the revenge actually harms the right people.
Some people have remarked that Schwarzenegger’s acting was especially good. I thought just the opposite. Since the character is supposed to be more of a regular guy (although still a “legend” because he apparently can’t play anything else), Schwarzenegger did have to act. And it was pathetic. There was nothing subtle in the performance. He felt sad so he put his face in his hands. Mostly though, he smoked a lot of cigars. We know how much he likes cigars, so I assume his only stipulation on the film was that it dictate he smoke a lot of cigars. If that’s what qualifies as good acting, we are all doomed.
On the plus side, the film is such a mess that there are no real thematic problems with it. But that’s just because the film doesn’t focus on anything long enough to have an opinion about it. I’m sure that underneath it all is respect for the red, white, and blue and for powerful men abusing their power. There was one especially troublesome scene. The DEA team was at a strip club. The guys got out of hand and the bouncer tried to stop them. He got badly beaten as a result. Again: I guess we were just supposed to root for the “good” guys. What I thought was that the bouncer was just doing his job and the DEA guys were assholes. And that about sums up what I think of the filmmakers: witless, artless assholes.