American audiences have proven that they don’t mind watching a very bloody shoot-‘em-up, but there needs to be a reason, or else you’re just watching someone else play a violent video game. Because we all know it’s not real. So there has to be some other angle: some compelling story, some character to root for, some kid to rescue, some jaded person to find their humanity somewhere along the way.
Well, unfortunately for “Sabotage,” none of these things happen. What does happen is it begins with a torture scene. Normally, I would walk out right there, and maybe should have, except at least the person viewing the torture video doesn’t seem to be enjoying it. Just remembering it, like he’s shoring up his resolve to exact his revenge. And that is exactly the plot of this movie, though it manages to hide it under a fusillade of automatic weapons fire and car chase scenes and tough guys outmuscling other tough guys.
It seems that there is a DEA special task force, designed to infiltrate gangs. Needless to say, it’s risky business, but at least there’s the twist that one of the infiltrators is a sexy woman, Lizzy (Mireille Enos), who literally removes her “come-hither” lingerie in order to strap on the bulletproof vest of the assault team. So this is the new feminism?
Next thing we know, our bad-hombre DEA SWAT force has summarily dispatched the bad guys, and is busy finding the purloined money, so they can….steal some of it? Yes, it appears that they had a little extra payday in mind for themselves. And ten million dollars of the illegal stash turns up missing, so everybody’s after them: not just their own bosses, but the cartel’s, as well.
When members of their formerly close-knit group start being eliminated one by one, naturally, there’s some finger-pointing among them, as well, but the cohesion is (barely) maintained by their “steady-as-a-rock” leader, “Breacher” (Arnold Scharzenegger). Now, since his return to acting after his famous stint as Governor (only in California ), and following his loud, messy divorce, he’s deftly utilized a sense of humor about an “older” guy being an action hero. But somehow here he forgets that he’s a walking contradiction, and shows us his calisthenics instead (but Arnold , the skin on your upper arms is still wrinkled, just like the rest of us senior citizens). Well, at least he can still preen with a cigar with the best of them.
As for the course of the movie, is there such a thing as violence porn? Where we see gratuitous blood-spattering just because we can? Yeah, there’s a little bit of raucous sex, but not anything resembling love. And even our forlorn violence junkies seem to know the difference.
The viewer doesn’t really understand the plot machinations until the end, which is one sign of a good story, but unfortunately there’s just nobody to root for here, and those who go to movies for light-hearted entertainment will find exactly the opposite: some tight-lipped obsession with vengeance, no matter who stands in the way. It’s not a pretty sight.
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Minister, St. Stephen’s Presbyterian Church, Irving , Texas