Thursday, 24 July, 2014

 
Published April 11, 2014
Cinema
Schwarzenegger goes rogue on image
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Gratuitous gore: Arnold Schwarzenegger (centre) decides to abandon his conventional image in favour of a surfeit of murder and mayhem in director David Ayer's Sabotage. - PHOTO: GOLDEN VILLAGE

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HE could have had a prolonged ride into the sunset and a cushy retirement job on the back of who knows how many Expendables movies, but Arnold Schwarzenegger continues to make other films that trade just a bit too heavily on his past as an action star. The best that can be said of his latest effort is that it makes his last two movies (Escape Plan and The Last Stand) look like Casablanca and Citizen Kane.

That may be a slight exaggeration, of course, but there's no denying that viewers of Sabotage, about a renegade team of undercover drug enforcement agents, will be subjected to a ludicrous storyline, an overload of gratuitous violence and the kind of painfully cliched dialogue that will make you cry for your mamma.

Arnie, who has had his share of iconic roles (featuring his muscles more than his acting prowess) and movie lines to fill a small book, has shown little inclination to simply fade away gracefully - and that's a pity, because at 66, he's in danger of turning into a sad caricature of his former self. He's often in on the joke, but the joke may finally be on him.

Director David Ayer, who wrote the screenplay for Training Day (2001) and also wrote and directed End of Watch (2012), has an affinity for violent movies about cops with questionable morals. In Sabotage, (which he co-wrote with Skip Woods), he surrounds Schwarzenegger with nasty boys (and one girl) who are more coke-sniffing biker thugs than heroic undercover agents. They steal some of Arnie's thunder but there's also no mistaking the fact that the one-time Terminator is, well, nearing the end of his watch.

Sabotage begins with a grainy torture scene straight out of a snuff movie, and then proceeds to go rapidly downhill from there. The scene is connected to John "Breacher" Wharton's (Schwarzenegger) back story, and we soon learn that he isn't a kosher cop, and neither is his team. With nicknames such as Monster (Sam Worthington), Sugar (Terrence Howard), Grinder (Joe Mangianello) and Lizzy (Mireille Enos) and attitudes to match, these agents are trigger-happy rebels who revel in not playing by the rules. After a plan to steal US$10 million from a drug cartel goes badly wrong, the agents start turning up dead (in gruesome fashion). In addition to taking heat from his superiors for the missing money, Breacher also has to deal with the evaporating trust among his agents and a suspicious local detective (Olivia Williams) who's investigating the killings.

The murder and mayhem in Sabotage is a lot more graphic and edgy than in most of Schwarzenegger's previous films - which are a genre by themselves - and it's almost as if he decided to go rogue on his conventional movie image in order to achieve some street cred.

There's really no excuse for the level of violence in this brutally disjointed and dysfunctional film, though. The Arnie we know and love could always take the punishment and dish it out with interest but what we have here is really a breach too far.

Rating: C-