Arnold Schwarzenegger has come back from his time in political office a better actor. Older, wearier and wiser, Schwarzenegger has created a wonderful new act in his career. Turns in The Expendables, The Last Stand and Escape Plan have delivered some great additions to the Austrian Oak’s back catalogue and while they may not have achieved commercial success, they show that he’s trying to deliver movies that riff on his legacy. David Ayer’s Sabotage is Schwarzenegger’s latest cinematic effort and the actor gives yet another interesting performance in what is surely the darkest movie of his career.
Schwarzenegger plays John ‘Breacher’ Wharton, the leader of a badass DEA team who steal $10 million in Mexican cartel drug money. The money then goes missing and someone starts killing the team one-by-one. Breacher must track down who is responsible as his team also come under investigation for the theft of the money.
David Ayer has shown the gritty underbelly of the police force in films like Training Day, Dark Blue and End of Watch and he once again digs deep into that territory with Sabotage. This is a hard-edged thriller, and the violence is messy and dark. Ayer’s film doesn’t have the cartoon violence of Commando or The Running Man; this is set in the real world where actions have consequences. The plot may be convoluted, but the atmosphere is very real. Schwarzenegger dives head-first into the challenge of transforming himself for Ayer. This wasn’t a safe commercial choice for the star. Schwarzenegger became such a huge personality in the 1990s that he transcended characterisation to the point where any script he had was simply a different take on his onscreen persona. He plays a fully rounded character in Sabotage; one that has many shades – none of which are black and white. It was a risky proposition and one that didn’t pay-off at the box office, but that’s okay. Millions of dollars does not a good movie make.
Ayer surrounds Schwarzenegger with a eclectic cast, including Sam Worthington, Terrance Howard, Max Martini and Olivia Williams. Like Schwarzenegger, they all rise to the challenge by playing characters which aren’t the most likeable. This may be a Hollywood movie, but it never feels like one. Even the good guys play like villains.
Mainstream movies like Sabotage rarely make it to the screen. It’s violent and dark and not what you would expect from an Arnold Schwarzenegger vehicle. He commits to the film, delivering another late career performance, which may not have paid-off at the box office, but it does pay off in adding diversity and bravery to a career that has had many acts.
Deleted scenes, alternate endings and a making-of add a lot to David Ayer’s film. They again show that the writer/director fought against the Hollywood system in an attempt to deliver a thriller that feels a little different.