"Some of us are getting paid, the rest of us are just getting dead."
Two thirds through Sabotage I was actually enjoying this action film thanks to some authentic performances and a decent cast, but the final third act messed up really bad by following generic conventions and feeling a bit too choppy. I was actually enjoying the direction in which this mystery thriller was going, but somehow it lost its way in the end and simply became another familiar action film with conventional characters. The film centers on an elite DEA squad that seems believable at first considering these are undercover agents that have their own unique macho language. They are not sympathetic characters or people we would really like to meet, but somehow their behavior seemed authentic for an underground world in which they were part of. The film seems to be going into an interesting direction and I was engaged with the mystery behind the opening act, but the resolution of the film is incredibly generic and it kind of ruined the entire experience for me. David Ayer is a director whose films I have enjoyed for the most part so I really had some expectations for Sabotage despite the weak word of mouth it was receiving. I believe the failure of this film relies on the studio who decided to cut Ayer's film in order for it to follow basic generic conventions because several scenes do feel forced and chopped. Ayer's version of the film was meant to be almost 3 hours long, but this film is less than two hours long. I can't help but feel there was a much more interesting film underneath the surface despite the fact that these characters aren't people we would like to be around with for too long. End of Watch was one of my favorite films of 2012 so I was really disappointed with Sabotage despite enjoying the first half of the film. I am still looking forward to Fury and hoping the studio doesn't interfere too much with Ayer's work this time. The other thing that hurt this film was the screenplay co-written by Ayer and Skip Woods. Woods hasn't really written a satisfying screenplay, his work in A Good Day to Die Hard being an example of this claim. The film also seems to struggle with its identity whether they want to portray the characters as villains or anti-heroes.
The film does seem to have its own unique style at first with some gruesome and bloody action sequences and an interesting mystery going on. Unfortunately the mystery doesn't have a good resolution and the twist fails to deliver any surprises. Some of the action scenes do suffer from shaky camera movements and quick edits as well. It is a gritty film, but somehow it loses its identity halfway through and erases that gritty edge Ayer was establishing at the beginning. Ayer has written some interesting films dealing with a similar subject matter in Training Day and End of Watch, but somehow this film never quite reaches that same quality. Arnold Schwarzenegger has made some decent films during his post-governor stage, and this seemed to be another one, but things got out of hand and his performance wasn't enough to save this film. Sam Worthington was almost unrecognizable in this film and the rest of the DEA team including Joe Manganiello, Josh Holloway, Terrence Howard, and Mireille Enos really go out of there way to make these characters unlikable. I actually thought their risk was paying off as I was interested in the mystery involving the stolen money and how they were being eliminated one by one. These weren't your typical characters from an ordinary action film. The film really had potential to go to new places, but it ended up navigating in familiar territory and never managing to come to a satisfying or believable conclusion. This loss of identity ultimately hurt this film which wasted its potential and gave the violence no sense of purpose whatsoever. It doesn't reward the audience either for sticking with these unlikable characters.