It’s bound to be a tough road for Arnold Schwarzanegger’s career after this devastating bomb
Following the capable End of Watch, inconsistent writer/director David Ayer sinks into Sabotage, amongst Arnold Schwarzenegger’s worst and Ayer’s career low. With eight obnoxiously gruff DEA agents in tow, Sabotage’s script is unfit for weekly televised crime drama, let alone the limp $35 million Universal stuffed into it.
Sabotage piles bodies on screen, from those plunked into the river for a week to those nailed to the ceiling – and gutted. Gruesome postmortem examinations squeeze onto the lens for graphic shock value, inter-cut with insipid DEA locker room schmoozing about farts and testicles. Seriously.
Ayer’s pairing with Schwarzenegger is unpleasant, a gross miscalculation of conceptual power and limited performance variation. Arnold romances machine guns as he statically mourns his wife’s sickening torture. Partnered with fellow agents (pitifully named “Neck” and “Grinder” amongst others) Schwarzenegger’s “Breacher” concocts a plan to plunder $10 million from the illicit drug trade, evolving into a crooked DEA agent murder spree. Maybe someone else thought the name “Neck” was stupid too.
Olivia Williams pops up as Caroline, an FBI agent self-sufficient enough to brush off a miserable tirade of misogyny from this increasingly uncomfortable script. Paired with Breacher, Sabotage shifts from explosions to clinically dead murder investigations, a distressed series of crime scene plundering so trite as to be offensive. Ayer’s half-in ‘found footage’ execution collapses onto this material without grounding or consistency, leaving Sabotage in a weary state of partial cinematography – if such a thing exists.
Script work, credited to Ayers & Skip Woods (A Good Day to Die Hard), meanders in sentimental baggage and sliced character definition, attributed to Universal’s heavy handed post-production editing. But, a rumored three hour cut from Ayer’s would have been insufferable.
Final moments close on implausibility, with a professional sniper incapable of nicking a target mere feet away during a groan worthy car chase. It’s loud (as if to wake those who drifted off from exhaustion) before reveling in a double twisting climax further shrouding the idea of credibility. Sabotage is utter nonsense which may be the kindest thing to say of it.
If anything, the digital work on behalf of the Arri Alexa is pleasing. Sharpness stands as impeccable, producing extensive close-ups and vivid establishing exteriors. Image density is gorgeous, with fidelity streaming in and the AVC encoding avoiding bothersome traits. Source cinematography is not hindered by noise short of a lonesome shot (captured by another camera) late in the piece.
Post production tinkers lightly with color filters before moving into a natural palette. Flesh tones are stunningly reproduced. Scenes doused in greens or yellows are few, limiting the impact of aggressive touch up. Primaries are frequently utilized with vivid results.
Sabotage’s highlight are black levels, with a pristine sheen and depth rarely afforded to any production. Night sequences are packed with perfect renderings of pure black, and where allowed by set lighting, careful consideration of shadow details. This feature’s contrasting power is immense.
This is a looker with few grievances. Those sensitive viewers will pick up on a handful of blotchy shots, especially one outside of Breacher’s home. A city aerial is bugged by minimal aliasing a short time later. Otherwise, whether long, mid, or short, the images keep up their looks, apparently aware of the necessity of looking good as they’re being betrayed by the narrative.
Positional gunfire is strong with this one, particularly where debris fields are concerned. Shooting through a concrete wall, particle remains shower through the soundfield of this vibrant DTS-HD mix. Shots fired pack into stereo channels as often as the rears, creating substantial separation for the few action scenes.
Sabotage is not a consistent gunfire producer, leaving much of the feature open without support. A forested home for Breacher sits unassisted by ambiance, or enough so wherein those scenes feels vacated by the design. Street level material is mediocre.
You’ll need to wait for the finale to grab at the positives, with shotguns and car engines revving up. LFE activity blossoms after missing for much of this movie, capturing fired rounds and collisions with a satisfying edge.
Two alternate endings cast a vastly different story on Sabotage, with more sense if not aimless thrills. Eight deleted scenes are passe and a meager making of is squandered on promotional material.
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Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process.