I think Sabotage could possibly be a bomb for Arnold Schwarzenegger. First, unless something has changed, it’ll come out one week before CGI toy figurine showcase ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’, hefty second week competition. Second, as we reported a while back, it received a negative response at a test screening in April this year, which led to re-shoots. Having read the screenplay/s, this isn’t surprising to me. The first screenplay, by Skip Woods, was very poor. This called for a rewrite by David Ayer himself, which is the version that is being reviewed here. It isn’t much better. As ever, things are definitely subject to change, what is reviewed here may not reflect the final product, especially with a movie that has undergone re-shoots. It may not be the shooting draft (it is undated) or the director may pull something out of the bag. This review will contain residual spoilers, and as it is not the actual movie it’ll be presented as more of an impression.
Breacher (Schwarzenegger) is approaching retirement. He and his elite DEA task force decide to rip off the Cartel during a raid on one of their stash houses. This results in Breacher’s team being taken down one by one, although not all is as it seems… So, when I reviewed the (draft) screenplay for RoboCop (2014), it was very easy to get through because it was shocking; lots of ‘are they serious’ and ‘surely the punchline is on the next page’ – it was a heap of swirled dog shit. By contrast the screenplay for The Expendables 3 was easy to get through because it was quite sturdy, considering who it was written for. I read both in one sitting. Sabotage, by David Ayer, is not an easy screenplay to read. It took me a few days to get through it. I had to keep taking breaks – I’m an avid reader by the way, I have more books than I have shelves to put them on – and I had to keep coming back to this. Eventually I got through it and got a handle on what this movie will be.
My impression is that Sabotage will be a dull movie, boring. The screenplay never takes off. It tries to be a story of gritty intrigue with coarse but badass characters, but spends a full fucking hour doing very little but show us just how annoying its characters actually are. They’re ugly and unfunny, with one in particular being a literal pest (Lizzy, played by Mireille Enos), like Vasquez, except uncool and annoying. The word I think we’re looking for here is douchebags. Engaging in relentless blowharding. In trying to make his characters appear tough and close-knit, Ayer borders on cheese. They’re a long way from the cool as shit characters written by the Thomas Brothers in Predator.
There are some positives. The dialogue is (sometimes) clever and Arnold is playing a full role, no need to fear being conned by one of those super-cameo jobs. It’s also a violent film, what you’d expect from Ayer. I mean, there are no head shots, rather there are exploding heads, know what I mean? That said, the biggest offender here is probably the plot twists. In a movie as simplistic as this, when you announce a plot twist it’s hard not see what it is. Worse if the movie makes you wait for it with dull (but more often cringe-worthy) back and forth. All of this is a change of pace for Schwarzenegger, but not necessarily for the better and I don’t think Schwarzenegger fans will dig it. I’m one. I don’t. Did I mention it’s about two hours with only three action scenes? Yes, it’s not meant to be an action movie, but as a thriller it’s poor so we need it to work in other areas. Even then, those scenes are quite routine too.
Some movies are executed better than their screenplays read. But some screenplays read better than they were executed. Probably down the middle, Sabotage by David Ayer is an exercise in mediocrity.
REVIEW SCORE: 6/10