We all knew Arnie would be back. But his post-political return to the movieverse has not been an unqualified success. While his old chum and Escape Plan co-star Sly Stallone is busy juggling a successful career (Rocky Balboa, John Rambo) and a successful meta-career (The Expendables, Grudge Match), the former governor of California has yet to find his Copland or generate boffo box office.
It's not for want of effort. Arnie has made smart career moves, such as teaming up with Stallone and working with ace Korean director Kim Jee-woon (A Tale of Two Sisters) on The Last Stand.
Sabotage puts him where one feels he ought to be: at the centre of a David Ayer movie. The writer of Dark Blue and director of Harsh Times is the go-to guy for dark, complex tales of crooked cops and male bonding. Surely Ayer will find something interesting to do with Austrian oak.
Unhappily, there's not much complexity to Sabotage. Arnold plays the leader of a rock-'em, sock-'em crack team of DEA agents. They're tough: they have names like Monster and Neck and Grinder. They're rough: they operate above the rules, man. And they may have stolen $10 million from a drug cartel. Violence ensues. Followed by a series of grisly murders. Followed by various shootouts. Followed by more violence.
One by one, the team are picked off, leaving Arnold and an investigating officer (Olivia Williams) to piece together a plot that feels altogether less likely than the events depicted in Tinker Bell and the Great Fairy Rescue.
Ayer's films are typically brawny and brainy, but Sabotage is seldom the latter. The men are ludicrously manly. The women are even manlier. The dialogue is composed entirely of swear words and rape references. Some proper actors (Terrence Howard, Harold Perrineau, Martin Donovan) have fun being properly potty-mouthed. Williams' ssuper-butch cop is a thing of beauty. Mireille Enos does powerfully unladylike things. Schwarzenegger isn't bad.
But the film around them is too, too much: too gruesome, too locker-room, too busy, too populated, and too daft.