Reviewed by: Eric Heitzinger
Arnold Schwarzenegger … John 'Breacher' Wharton
Sam Worthington … James 'Monster' Murray
Joe Manganiello … Joe 'Grinder' Phillips
Josh Holloway … Eddie 'Neck' Jordan
Terrence Howard … Julius 'Sugar' Edmonds
Olivia Williams … Caroline
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|Director||David Ayer—“Training Day,” “The Fast and the Furious”|
Albert S. Ruddy Productions
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|Distributor||Open Road Films|
“Leave no loose ends.”
The latest in a string of “comeback” movies following Arnold Schwarzenegger’s return to acting, “Sabotage” takes a much darker turn than other recent films starring the former California Governor. Schwarzenegger plays John “Breacher” Wharton, the leader of a motley, but deadly effective, DEA special operations team.
“Motley” may be putting it mildly. The team is diverse ethnically, racially, sexually, and mentally, and it seems nearly every member of the team is a loose cannon in one way or another. For example, one member is said to dislike police because of some brutality he suffered at the hands of law enforcement in another country; another has a drug problem.
While this may seem odd for a group of agents tasked with important high-risk operations (and it is), keep in mind that many of those who produced 2001’s “Training Day” were involved in this film, and many of the same themes are found here, such as certain law officers being arguably as bad, or worse, than those they pursue. It also highlights that Breacher, who more than once is referred to as a father figure, is a tremendous leader, able to keep the rough edges of his team pointed in the right direction and focused into a highly cohesive unit. As we see in the opening sequence, in which the team raids a drug cartel villa during a party, they function almost seamlessly.
Rather than a straight up-and-down bust though, the team decides to skim some cartel money off the top for themselves. Not surprisingly, they find themselves under investigation, and cracks begin to form in the iron bond that only a team like this can have, cracks that only widen under more pressure when teammates start dying. Will the team hold together? How many will die before the mystery is solved? Is it the cartel hunting them, or is this an inside job?
As movie plots go, “Sabotage” is mediocre or slightly better. There are twists and turns that I suspect will keep viewers guessing some of the time, at the very least, but emotional connection to the characters is only so-so. The team is so big that it is hard for there to be much backstory on any one member, even Breacher. To the film’s credit, it keeps with the theme of teamwork—no character information is ever divulged by the character it concerns. Instead, it comes from another member of the unit whose members know each other so well, or we watch it unfold on the screen. There is decent suspense. Morally, though, it would take too long to fully describe the questionable content.
Violence: Scores of people are shot in intense gun battles, and the film seems to have a particular fetish for headshots. Often, these wounds are shown graphically and at close distances. Several other people are killed with knives or struck by vehicles. A woman is tortured, mostly off-screen, but sounds allude to what the viewer cannot see, and we hear her fate described gruesomely by other characters. Some murders take place off screen, but the bodies that are found are grotesquely mutilated, and the results are shown in great detail on camera.
Profanity: One team member is described as having “died for our [the other team members’] sins.” As Christians, we know only Jesus’ death can atone for our faults. The Lord’s name is used in vain several times, but honestly, the characters normally just opt for the f-word. In fact, it would be quite the task to count the number of times the word was used [almost 200]. Sh*t is used often as well (over 40). A** and d**n are used several times, and female characters are regularly referred to as “b**ch.” Breacher is described as a tactical “god.”
Sexuality: Characters often poke fun of each other using sexual slurs or terms, and flirt or intimidate using graphic language. Several strip clubs or cartel parties are shown in which women are topless or scantily clad. Two topless women are seen kissing and groping one another in bed. A woman swims nude in a pool before sexual activity is implied. Intercourse itself is never shown directly, but alluded to frequently, as is oral sex. Sex is often outside of marriage and/or used to manipulate.
Drinking/Drug use: Almost every main character is seen drinking, often to excess, on at least two occasions. What appears to be prescription medication is taken with vodka. Cocaine use is seen on-screen several times, and one main character is portrayed repeatedly as being obviously under the influence of drugs. Smoking is common—cigars, for example, are one of Breacher’s defining accessories.
There are some other negative elements, as well. Revenge is a key factor in the movie, on the part of the team and the cartel, whereas we know that vengeance belongs to the Lord. Romans 12:19 says “Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay, ’ says the Lord.” There is also no clear “hero” here, in contrast to, for example, “The Last Stand” which rightly drew comparisons to John Wayne’s “Rio Bravo.” And while there is none among us who are righteous (Romans 3:12; Psalms 14:3 and 53:3; Ecclesiastes 7:20), I don’t think that’s what the writers had in mind. To the film’s credit, many of the negative elements have adverse, often deadly consequences for the protagonists, but did anyone really come to see this for a cautionary tale?
Breacher’s crew has exceptional teamwork, and it pays off for them. They also train hard and risk much to make themselves into the unit they are.
I was somewhat worried that, not having seen many action films since starting to take my faith more seriously, I was being prudish, but after looking around, I was not—even non-Christians see “Sabotage” as well over the top. Bottom-line: If you are a fan of blood and guts action (literally), this is your show. If you are a lover of Arnold, you’ll see it no matter what. If you’re in it for the story, it’s not bad, but there is a heavy price to pay if you have any sensibilities, and biblically, it’s tough to defend.
Violence: Extreme / Profanity: Extreme—including G*d d*amn (5), Jesus Christ (3), Oh J*sus, OMG, God (2), and much vulgar sexual slang / Sex/Nudity: Heavy to extreme
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.