dir David Ayer
scr Skip Woods, David Ayer
prd David Ayer, Bill Block, Paul Hanson, Palak Patel, Joe Roth, Albert S Ruddy, Ethan Smith, Skip Woods
with Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sam Worthington, Mireille Enos, Olivia Williams, Harold Perrineau, Joe Manganiello, Josh Holloway, Terrence Howard, Max Martini, Kevin Vance, Martin Donovan, Mark Schlegel
release US 28.Mar.14, UK 7.May.14
14/US 1h49
Tough guys: Manganiello and Schwarzenegger

worthington enos sw

I don’t have
a master plan

Arnold Schwarzenegger >>

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Sabotage David Ayer should probably see someone about his obsession with morally compromised cops. After the likes of Training Day and End of Watch, he at least offers Schwarzenegger his most darkly complex role yet, but the formula is strained badly in this messy, uber-violent thriller. And by the end, any point is lost in the grisliness.

After his DEA squad secretly diverts $10m during a chaotic drug bust, Breacher (Schwarzenegger) discovers that the hidden cash has been stolen. And then his team members begin being brutally killed one-by-one. So hothead Monster (Worthington), spiky addict Lizzy (Enos), muscle-man Grinder (Manganiello), meathead Next (Holloway) and smooth operator Sugar (Howard) band together to figure out who wants them dead. Meanwhile, local Atlanta cops Caroline and Jackson (Williams and Perrineau) are on the case.

The plot unfurls like a nasty whodunit in which the survivors are always one step behind a serial killer whose methods are so gruesome that they make seasoned cops lose their breakfast. Aside from making us feel queasy too, this also adds an urgent mystery to the movie that just about holds the interest, building suspense as the numbers thin out and shady drug cartel goons lie in ambush for our heroes.

On the other hand, the screenplay also stirs in some even more gruesome romantic banter. And as it becomes clear who is to blame, the plot falls apart altogether, because the motives simply don't hold water. Still, the powerhouse cast just about manages to hold things together, thanks mainly to the always-remarkable Williams. Worthington also gets a few strong scenes, and Schwarzenegger is decent as the thuggish boss, but less convincing when required to be dramatic or (shudder) sexy.

When a movie opens with a snuff video, we know that there's some murky moralising at work behind it. Indeed, Ayer is still preaching about the dangers of arming deeply flawed men with big guns and then entrusting our safety to them. On the other hand, he seems to get far too much joy from showing them blowing each other to bits or, even worse, torturing each other mercilessly. This may ultimately be a bleak exploration of personal pain, but all subtlety is obliterated by the bloodshed.

cert 15 themes, language, strong violence, drugs, nudity 30.Mar.14

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