Most moviegoers will concede that Arnold Schwarzenegger is no longer the actor that he once was in the 1980s and 1990s. During his heyday, the celebrated Austrian bodybuilder made popular movies that mainstream audiences relished and quoted lines from with hopeless regularity. Since he finished his tour of duty as California’s twice-elected governor, Schwarzenegger has been making movies that have attracted only a hardcore following, often with his frequent flying friend Sylvester Stallone. They’ve made three “Expendables” epics along with the underrated “Escape Plan.” Arnold’s latest epic “Sabotage” (***1/2 OUT OF ****) may repel audiences more than attract them. “Sabotage” writer & director David Ayer specializes in hard-as-nails action sagas. As a writer, he has penned “U-571,” “The Fast and the Furious,” “Training Day,” “Dark Blue,” “Harsh Times,” “SWAT,” and “End of Watch.” As a director, he has helmed “Harsh Times,” “End of Watch,” and “Street Kings.” You can catch a glimpse of all these movies, possibly with the exception of “U 571,” in his latest crime thriller “Sabotage.” Quite possibly, “Sabotage” contains more grit and guts than anything that either Ayer or Arnold has ever done. When you see the R-rating that “Sabotage” drew from the MPAA, you should prepare yourself for the worst. One of the more ghoulish scenes has our DEA honcho (Arnold Schwarzenegger) entering a darkened room with a female Atlanta detective (Olivia Williams of “Hanna”) as they search for one of Arnold’s team. The detective slips on something slimy and finds herself sprawled in a pool of blood and guts. When Arnold shines his flashlight at the ceiling, he spots one of his agents crucified to the ceiling with his intestines dangling from his eviscerated belly like the tentacles of an octopus. If such sights sicken y, “Sabotage” is not your kind of movie.
John ‘Breacher’ Wharton (Arnold Schwarzeggner) commands an elite team of undercover Drug Enforcement Agency agents who have tangled with the worst that the Mexican cartels have to offer. Breacher’s team consists of James ‘Monster’ Murray (Sam Worthington of “Avatar”), his wife Lizzy Murray (Mireille Enos of “Gangster Squad”), Joe ‘Grinder’ Phillips (Joe Manganiello of “Spider-Man”), Eddie ‘Neck’ Jordan (Josh Holloway of TV’s “Lost”), Julius ‘Sugar’ Edmonds (Terrence Howard of “Iron Man”), Tom ‘Pyro’ Roberts (Max Martini of “Pacific Rim”), Bryce ‘Tripod’ McNeely (Kevin Vance of “End of Watch”), and ‘Smoke’ Jennings (newcomer Mark Schlegel). These guys and a girl look like they belong in the “Sons of Anarchy” biker gang. They wear many tattoos, dress like vagabonds, tote an arsenal of weapons and ammo, and behave like criminals. Unlike most of his team, Breacher is clean-shaven with closely cropped hair and prefers to smoke stogies. The first time we see these ruffians of justice they blast their way into a cartel safe house, wipe out several heavily armed gunmen, and then loot the place of $10-million. What they don’t take, they blow up. One of them dies during the blistering bloodbath. They attach packets of money to a line and run it through a toilet into the sewer. Later, when they trudge through the sewer to retrieve the loot, they are shocked to discover that the money is missing! Predictably, Breacher’s DEA bosses are furious, and they launch an investigation. Our heroes are suspended, and the DEA relieves them of their badges and firearms. Eventually, Washington relents when its investigators cannot find a shred of evidence to indict either Breacher or his men on corruption. No sooner have our heroes reassembled than one after another are mysteriously murdered. Initially, Breacher and company believe that the cartels have decided to eliminate them one at a time, but later they suspect that one of their own may be stalking and killing them. Meantime, a veteran Altanta Homicide detective (Olivia Williams) and her partner Jackson (Harold Perrineau of TV’s “Lost”) are assigned to investigate the deaths of Breacher’s men. Caroline and Jackson find themselves far in over their heads in a case that is as bloody as it is baffling.
“Sabotage” boasts several extremely violent shootouts, a careening car chase through downtown Atlanta, and some grisly murders. Scenarist Skip Woods, who wrote “The A-Team,” “A Good Day to Die Hard,” and “Swordfish,” doesn’t pull any punches along with co-scripter Ayer. Just when you think you have the mystery solved, Woods and Ayer whip out a surprise or two that will have you scratching your head in perplexity. Sometimes, they even toss in ideas that might make us think twice about homicide. The villains in “Sabotage” rely on chicken wire to submerge the corpses of their victims so the bloated bodies cannot bloat and float to the surface of a lake. Relentlessly grim from start to finish, this cops & drug dealers melodrama swerves drastically during its final quarter-hour with an eye-opening finale in Mexico. Arnold Schwarzeggner is just as rugged as ever, but he doesn’t do anything that a lesser mortal couldn’t do, and he refrains from uttering any cheesy but memorable one-liners. The character that he plays suffers from a tragic secret that we gradually learn about throughout the film’s lean 109 minutes. The revelation of “Sabotage” is actress Mireille Enos. Enos delivers an impressive performance as a drug addicted DEA agent. She doesn’t take any abuse from anybody, and she is incredibly agile when battling both the good guys and the bad guys. Like her co-star Olivia Williams, Enos is no ravishing beauty, but nevertheless a seriously talented actress. Director David Ayers keeps the action moving without any lulls and occasionally fakes us out with some interesting juxtapositions during certain scenes that enhances the tension and suspense. Although he doesn’t adopt a first-person approach with a selfie video camera like he did in “End of Watch,” Ayer has the action lensed in such as way that you feel like everything is spontaneous. Interestingly enough, “Sabotage” was filmed on location in Atlanta. “Sabotage” is a shoot’em up that you won’t forget!0