Joe-Manganiello-Arnold-Schwarzenegger-and-Mireille-Enos-in-SabotageHaving impressed greatly with his preceding endeavour End of Watch, director David Ayer now presents Sabotage, a far more conventional offering, devoid of the ingenuity that made his last picture so special. The same can also be said of Arnold Schwarzenegger, as following on from The Last Stand – a film that signalled the beginning on a triumphant comeback for the Austrian action hero, he too has fallen back into old habits, in a film that is frustratingly archetypal of the genre, seemingly adverse to trying anything unique.

Arnie plays ‘Breacher’, the intimidating head of an elite DEA task force who are desperately pursuing a drug cartel. The problem is, the drug cartel also have their eyes on the DEA, and are picking them off one by one, as a dangerous game of cat and mouse ensues. While agents such as Monster (Sam Worthington), Grinder (Joe Manganiello), Sugar (Terrence Howard) and Lizzy (Mireille Enos) fear for their lives, Breacher has a personal mission of his own; to seek vengeance on those who captured and then brutally tortured his family.

Sabotage is a classic Arnie actioner in many ways, feeling as though it has come straight out of the early 1990s. Though in some regards that’s giving the fans what they want, it’s sadly not a positive indictment into how this film plays out. First and foremost, the production quality is not of the highest standard, appearing more like a Channel 5 cop drama than a multimillion dollar production. On the other hand, it does provide this picture with an almost grainy feel, enhancing the old-fashioned approach taken by the man in the director’s chair.

While there is often funny and naturalistic banter amongst the DEA agents, it can sometimes be completely vulgar and offensive – and sadly this picture is not quite comical or tongue-in-cheek enough to pull it off. Arnie’s Breacher is too brooding and pensive in his approach, and apart from when he insults somebody by claiming they have 48% body fat, it’s almost too sincere and we’re missing those catchy one-liners and frivolity that can make some below-par action flicks worth investing in. That said, there is a quite absurd moment when a professional lab technician, undertaking a serious post-mortem examination, finds a hair which is a potential bit of evidence, and then shouts “boo yah”. Honestly.

Arnie impresses in the leading role however, and in spite of his age he still carries that infallibility about his demeanour, where you put your faith into him as a leading man. However it’s counteracted effectively with a vulnerability of sorts, which serves the character well in this instance. The other stand-out performance comes from Olivia Williams as Caroline, a detective who gets involved in the DEA’s case, bringing some real panache to the otherwise generic role. The other performances are not bad as such, but the characters are distinctively unlikeable. There’s one scene where they’re goofing around at a strip joint, and go up on stage and start dancing on the pole. The security guard comes over, merely doing his job, and they all attack him barbarously. It hardly endears us to them, and proves to be detrimental to the film, as we should really be rooting for their survival when they’re being targeted by the drug cartel. Instead you’re fervently anticipating their demise.

Given the cast on board, and the credentials of the director, you can’t be blamed for hoping for something a little more accomplished from this particular feature. Instead we have a terribly generic action thriller with more holes in the plot than you’ll see at a golf course. But look, it’s an Arnie movie called Sabotage. What else did you expect?