There was a time when John "Breacher" Wharton was the dude of the DEA, a guy who could put together a team of agents so effective, so clockwork perfect that no street boss or drug cartel stood a chance. The world he and his troops of undercover cops had to live in was a foul one, to be sure, a place of drugs, booze, sleazy sex, violence, filth and raw death. But John was somehow able to be in it, not of it. He was an expert at balancing on that we're-doing-this-really-bad-thing-to-help-the-innocent teetering point.
That, however, was before his family was taken.
His wife and kids were grabbed and slowly raped and tortured to death while being filmed. They cried out for John to save them—and then bits of their bodies were mailed to him for weeks. That changed this man of steel. It changed his team. His world.
Now there are questions of corruption. And accusations that the team might be stashing drug money and working outside the law. And within the last week it appears that the members of John's group are being hunted. Are being picked off and killed, one by one.
Who's doing it? Well, that's the thing. These agents are seasoned. They're pros at what they do. So they're not going to let just anybody sneak up on them and take them out, no matter how drunk they may be at the time.
The killers, then, have got to be pretty special. Drug cartel specialists, maybe? A Guatemalan death squad? Whoever they are, they're about to step into a whole lotta pain, though, and face a twisted up legend named Breacher who knows just what pain looks like.
There may have been quite a lot that was positive about Breacher and Co.'s past law enforcement efforts. But all that's gone now. The best I can say about things in the present tense is that one particular female homicide detective tries to follow the law in pursuit of a DEA agent's killer.
A murder victim has a statuette of a satyr in his home. There's a gross sexual line about the devil's private parts. A dead comrade is eulogized in a bar with the quasi-religious words "That m‑‑‑‑‑f‑‑‑er died for our sins."
At a drug party and a strip club we see a number of women exposing their breasts. In one case, a woman has her bare chest squeezed and caressed by another woman she's kissing passionately. A partying DEA agent stares intently at the nearly nude backside of a club dancer wriggling in front of him. A stripper shows up for a party with lots of skin already exposed. Breacher meets up with a female detective who's swimming naked in her pool. (We see her bare breast through the water's shimmer.) They kiss.
Other women wear formfitting and short-skirted outfits. We see Agent Lizzy in various states of undress. She sometimes goes braless in tank tops. And graphic visuals make it clear she's not averse to having sex with guys to further her undercover efforts. (Never mind that she's married to a teammate.) Conversations center on various sexual activities including oral sex and bestiality.
The bloodletting and murderous butchery of this pic sink to Saw-like torture-porn levels. Visuals fall into one of two categories: visceral or extreme.
On the visceral side are the videos that John repeatedly watches of his wife being raped and tortured. While the images are skewed with hard-to-decipher close-ups, the presentation is realistic enough to give him—right along with moviegoers—a clear sense of the horrid and bloody acts being perpetrated. We see the woman's fingers getting broken, witness a bat being swung at her knees and listen over and over to her screaming pleas.
Some of the drug house-breaching cop work falls into this category too. Men are riddled with large-caliber weaponry and slashed with blades. Their blood paints the scenery or gushes out in pools. Bones are broken and snapped―in one case punching through a woman's forearm. We see decomposing corpses pulled from a watery grave. John tells of receiving body parts in the mail, including his wife's skinned-off face.
In the even more extreme category, we're shown butchery that ranges from pictures of bodies hacked open and crudely dissected, to the bloody aftermath of a depraved killing, to an on-the-spot up-close execution. A female investigator slips in the dark to land in a pool of gore; when she lifts her flashlight we see a dripping corpse nailed to the ceiling above her, it's torso rent and entrails dangling.
In another case (and trust me, I'm not even going to try to be inclusive in this sordid section) a man's motor home is hit by a train; the camera swoops in on the aftermath, taking its time to eye the chunks of torn-open flesh and dismembered body parts. People are shot execution-style to bloody hole-in-the-skull effect. A victim slumps over to spill his brains on the floor. A dead man is stuffed in a refrigerator, letting loose a flood of blood when the door is reopened. Another runs his car into a flatbed trailer, decapitating himself and spraying blood over a large area.
Crude or Profane Language
Well over 200 f-words and 40-plus s-words. That blue streak is further colored by multiple spews of "a‑‑," "b‑‑ch," "b‑‑tard," "d‑‑n" and "h‑‑‑." God's and Jesus' names are misused around a dozen times total (God's combined with "d‑‑n" half the time). Crude-to-obscene references are made to male and female genitalia.
Drug and Alcohol Content
Breacher smokes a cigar regularly, and a few of his comrades smoke cigarettes. The whole DEA team chugs beer and other booze throughout. It becomes apparent that Lizzy is an addict; she pops pills and washes them down with liquor. Meth is dribbled into her mouth. Cocaine gets snorted and marijuana smoked.
Other Negative Elements
Forget about spoilers in a movie like this: The "hero" DEA agents here are indeed corrupt, trying to steal $10 million in drug money. And the film leaves us with the impression that deadly revenge is something worthwhile and sweet.
The cops have to unbolt and hoist a plugged toilet brimming with feces. An agent holds up a large bottle three-quarters full of urine.
I'm a migraine sufferer. And as the many of us who have to endure this malady know, a migraine is not just a bad headache. When this hurt hits you, it's pure brain-pounding misery. A lot of times you can see it coming, too. I, for instance, usually get a number of visual indicators that a stretch of debilitating head throbbing is on the way, long before the actual detonation.
So trust me that I know what I'm talking about when I say Sabotage is a cinematic migraine.
From the moment it begins there are ugly and spasmodic indicators that the next hour and forty-five minutes of screen time is going to be redemption-free and brutally pointless, just a whole lot of squint-your-eyes-and-clench-your-jaw wretchedness.
The gritty dialogue spews out dank and persistently foul. The gory visuals are dripping with chum-filled muck. And the story―with its corrupt cops, tortured innocents, bloody revenge, and debased and immoral world locked stolidly into place―flails tediously about in an attempt to distract you from the obvious nihilistic ending.
It's not that there isn't some craft behind it all or maybe even a bit of acting skill in play. But when you're handcuffed to your theater seat being gnawed at by this brain buster, none of that really matters much. You just wish you didn't have to suffer through it.
Which, of course, you really don't.
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Arnold Schwarzenegger as John 'Breacher' Wharton; Sam Worthington as James 'Monster' Murray; Joe Manganiello as Joe 'Grinder' Phillips; Josh Holloway as Eddie 'Neck' Jordan; Terrence Howard as Julius 'Sugar' Edmonds; Mireille Enos as Lizzy Murray; Olivia Williams as Caroline
David Ayer (End of Watch, Street Kings, Harsh Times)
Open Road Films
March 28, 2014
Bob Hoose Bob Hoose