Corrupt police officers learn they are not above the law in the latest action thriller from David Ayer, who has walked the beat before in Training Day and End Of Watch.
In Sabotage, the Illinois-born writer-director melds the testosterone-fuelled camaraderie and grittiness of his earlier films, cutting between explosive gun fights and unsettling scenes of videotaped torture.
Like the muscle-bound characters, Ayer’s picture foregoes subtlety and diplomacy, preferring a full-on assault of wanton violence.
When a member of internal affairs warns one dirty cop, “If that cartel finds out you stole 10 million dollars, they’re gonna slit your throat from ear to ear,” he isn’t joking.
Dismemberment, disembowelment and evisceration abound and Ayer delights in the aftermath of ritualistic slaughter.
Implausibilities stack up faster than expletives in a script co-written by Skip Woods, including a hilarious moment of forced sexual tension between Arnold Schwarzenegger and a female co-star.
“Credibility is like virginity. Once it’s gone, it’s gone forever,” a senior police officer philosophises later in the picture.
Sabotage pops its cherry in the opening 10 minutes.
Schwarzenegger plays John Breacher, the cigar-chewing ringleader of a team of undercover DEA agents, who infiltrate criminal organisations and destroy them from the inside.
Their latest target is a drug cartel safe house, where team member Lizzy (Mireille Enos) has gathered vital intelligence about a stockpile of cash.
Breacher and his bad lads – Monster (Sam Worthington), Sugar (Terrence Howard), Neck (Josh Holloway), Pyro (Max Martini), Tripod (Kevin Vance), Grinder (Joe Manganiello) and Smoke (Mark Schlegel) – use the raid as a smokescreen to steal 10 million dollars from the cartel.
Unfortunately, the stolen loot vanishes, leaving the DEA agents out of pocket and facing tough questions from department chief Floyd Morgan (Martin Donovan) and internal affairs.
In the absence of physical proof, the team returns to active duty.
One by one, an unseen adversary picks off the DEA agents and Breacher reluctantly accepts help from ballsy detective Caroline Brentwood (Olivia Williams) to identify the culprit.
Sabotage portrays Breacher and his buddies as loud-mouthed, obnoxious hooligans, who can ignore their moral compasses so long as they get results.
Schwarzenegger looks his age in close-up but still takes the lead in big set pieces while Williams struggles to impose herself in a woefully underwritten role.
Action sequences that bookend the film are polar opposites in terms of plausibility. While the nervy DEA assault on the safe house sets pulses racing, the climactic showdown is a preposterous game of automotive duel on the streets of Atlanta that wouldn’t look out of place in the forthcoming Terminator reboot.
All that’s missing is a knowing smirk to camera from Schwarzenegger.
In this instance, we hope Breacher won’t be back.