In 'Sabotage,' Arnold Schwarzenegger leads an elite DEA task force that takes on the world's deadliest drug cartels. When the team successfully executes a high-stakes raid on a cartel safe house, they think their work is done - until, one-by-one, the team members mysteriously start to be eliminated. As the body count rises, everyone is a suspect.
'Sabotage' had a 'blink and you'll miss it' theatrical release in March of this year, where it finished a dismal seventh during its opening weekend. The remainder of its theatrical run was no more impressive. However, the movie now has a chance for a second life on home video, and it's my job to tell you why, despite the poor reception from moviegoers and critics alike, 'Sabotage' is not only worthy of a look, but a spot on your Blu-ray shelf as well.
The movie stars Arnold Schwarzenegger as Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) agent John 'Breacher' Wharton, who heads up one of the agency's most elite task forces. The team consists of some of Hollywood's more notable up and coming actors, including The Killing's Mireille Enos; True Blood's Joe Manganiello; Lost's Josh Holloway; Avatar's Sam Worthington; and well-known character actor Terrence Howard. This well-cast group of actors is rounded out by Dollhouse's Olivia Williams and Lost's Harold Perrineau, who play a pair of police detectives who find themselves investigating Breacher and his team.
As the movie opens, Breacher and his team are busting a drug operation located inside a rather affluent home in suburban Atlanta, Georgia. During the raid, they locate a huge pile of drug money and the team takes $10 million of it, ties it to a wire, and lowers it from the house down to the sewer running underneath it. They then incinerate the remainder of the money and head to the sewers below to collect the cash. There's only one problem – when they get there, the money has been cut away from the wire. Additionally, the DEA suspects their team of taking the $10 million (how they determined it was missing is never really revealed, and ultimately not that important) and immediately starts to investigate Breacher and every member of his team.
Things go from bad to worse when members of the team begin to be eliminated one by one. This is the point where the local police – primarily Williams' and Perrineau's characters – are called in to investigate those murders. Is it the drug dealers getting revenge for losing their money? Is it a more sinister drug cartel who (as we learn early in the movie) is responsible for the death of Breacher's family? Or is it perhaps actually a member of Breacher's own team?
The answer to the above (which I certainly wouldn't dare to spoil here) seems to have changed at some point after the movie had been shot. The original ending (which can be found in the supplemental materials on this Blu-ray) painted a much darker resolution to the story that may or may not have been a more fitting ending for the film. Apparently, the producers and studio thought Director David Ayer's original ending was a little too dark and wouldn't play well with audiences. Of course, the updated ending didn't prove to play very well either, so it's up to each individual viewer to decide now which version fits the movie best (I actually prefer the theatrical ending, but it's all a matter of taste).
For those of you who would just like to know what the action is like in 'Sabotage', make no mistake that this is one of Arnold's more hard-R-rated flicks. The movie pulls no punches when it comes to violence, gore, and profanity, although those expecting a collection of one-liners from Arnold may come away disappointed, as 'Sabotage' is easily one of the more serious movies he's made during his career. Yes, there's still some room for humor, but certainly not during any of the action scenes – this movie takes its violence seriously, and while it doesn't whitewash any of it, it by no means glorifies it either.
While 'Sabotage' is far from a perfect film, and not one I would put near the top of the best that Schwarzenegger has headlined, I did enjoy it quite a bit – and it wasn't something I thought I would like going in. If you've been dying to see Arnold do an action movie where his character is less of a comic book hero and more of a flesh and blood man, 'Sabotage' will fit your needs nicely.
The Blu-Ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Sabotage' blasts its way onto home video in a Blu-ray/DVD/Digital HD combo pack. The discs are housed inside an Elite keepcase, with the dual-layer DVD on the left, and the 50GB dual-layer Blu-ray on the right. Also included is an insert containing the code for an Ultraviolet copy of the movie. Both the Blu-ray and the DVD are front-loaded with trailers for 'The Green Inferno', 'The Fluffy Movie', a promo for Regal Cinemas' Regal Crown Club, plus trailers for Bad Words, A Haunted House 2, and Chef.
Both discs' main menus consist of a still of Arnold and his DEA gang from the movie that mirrors one of the one-sheet posters for the film (as opposed to the image on the box cover). Menu selections run vertically down the left side of the screen. This combo pack also comes with a slipcover that matches the artwork of the keepcase slick.
The Blu-ray is region free.
'Sabotage' was shot digitally on Arri Alexa cameras, and boy does it look fantastic on Blu-ray. Even though Director David Ayer and Cinematographer Bruce McCleery make use of a hand-held camera look (i.e., the ol' 'shaky cam') throughout the majority of the movie, every shot is filled with sharp detail and some real depth. Skin tones are consistent throughout, and viewers will also be able to see every crease, line, and crinkle in the actors' faces.
'Sabotage' contains a number of dark or dimly-lit sequences, and thankfully the black levels here are deep and inky. Overall colors are bright and distinct, without ever becoming too glossy or oversaturated. Overall, this is an outstanding and reference-quality transfer from Universal.
The movie is presented in its original theatrical 1.85:1 aspect ratio.
The only available audio on the Blu-ray is a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track, but it's a good one, with plenty of directionality and low-end 'oomph' that audiophiles should enjoy quite a bit. The nicest thing about the track is that, with all the gunfire and explosions that the movie contains, none of the action never overwhelms or drowns-out the spoken dialogue – meaning you won't be constantly reaching for the remote to turn the volume down during the action-packed sequences, only to have to turn it back up for the dialogue-driven scenes.
The track does a pretty good job at immersiveness, not only having fun with the rear speakers during gun battles, but occasionally throwing a character's voice back there when his or her location in a scene would warrant. The distinctiveness of most sounds is separate and noticeable, and both the high ends and low ends are free of any distortions. As tracks for action movies go, this one falls just short of reference quality, but viewers/listeners should be quite pleased with what they get.
Subtitles are available in English SDH, Spanish, and French.
Although the box office hasn't reflected it, Arnold Schwarzenegger has been involved in some pretty interesting and entertaining projects since he returned to acting after ending his political career. 'Sabotage' might be his most noteworthy role since that return, even though it died a pretty quick death at the box office. It's a more serious drama than we're used to seeing Arnie in, but it's also full of the kind of R-rated action that fans of his flicks have come to love. This is a solid piece of entertainment. Recommended.