Under the Radar

Will the Real 'Sabotage' Please Stand Up?

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Sabotage (out now on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital), was supposed to be the movie that jump-started Arnold Schwarzenegger's late-career resurgence. Arnold took a Skip Woods screenplay and sought out director David Ayer (End of Watch, the upcoming Fury) to rewrite the script and bring his eye for detail to the drug raids at the center of the picture. Unfortunately, Sabotage was DOA at the box office and not particularly loved by most critics. Arnold's probably done as a leading man and that's a shame.

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Sabotage, the movie we saw in theaters, tells the story of an Atlanta-based DEA unit that tries to steal $10 million from a raid. The money disappears before they can recover it and all the members of the team start getting killed. Is it the cartel getting revenge for the missing cash? Who stole the money? Arnold plays John "Breacher" Wharton, the unit commander whose family was tortured and killed by Mexican drug lords. There's an ongoing investigation into the agent murders by the Atlanta Police Department and Breacher has both a personal and working relationship with the lead detective played by Olivia Williams.

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Almost everyone dies (including enough collateral damage of innocent bystanders to give a small-town cop pause about about military-style drug raids on the local meth dealer) and Breacher eventually gains a measure of revenge for the loss of his family.

As with all David Ayer projects (which also include the screenplays for Training Day and Dark Blue), there's a real emphasis on the mechanics of the job. The raids are meticulously staged and a climactic car chase (one that includes an homage to classic '70s movie The Seven-Ups) will actually make sense to anyone who knows the layout of downtown Atlanta.

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There are a lot of first-actors here, many of whom play roles a lot smaller than you'd expect. The DEA team includes Sam Worthington (Avatar, Clash of the Titans), Joe Manganiello (True Blood, Magic Mike), Mireille Enos (The Killing, World War Z), Terrence Howard (Hustle & Flow, Iron Man), Josh Holloway (Lost) and Max Martini (Saving Private Ryan, Captain Phillips). Many of the cops and Feds who investigate the unit are played by actors with familiar faces. Lots of folks wanted to work with Arnold or Ayer (or both).

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And, yet, there are extras on the Blu-ray that reveal a much different movie than the one released in theaters. There are two alternate endings and more deleted scenes than usual included here.

The deleted scenes reveal a jettisoned plot about a missing child investigation led by Olivia Williams' Detective Caroline Brentwood and an ending where the good guys win. Williams was the real protagonist in the original screenplay and would either arrest the bad guy or die a hero in the two versions that Ayer originally shot. Those must have tested terribly and the ending we see here was concocted and tacked on. That also required losing a good chunk of the original plot.

That explains a lot. Sabotage wasn't really a return to Ayer's celebration of the bent cop after End of Watch. It was another tribute to a good cop, this time one played by a woman.

It's surprising that there's not a director's cut of the movie on this disk. If you watch the deleted scenes after you see the movie and then watch the alternate endings (alert: deleted scenes menu is below the alternate endings menu on the disk, but the alternate endings won't make any sense unless you watch the deleted scenes first), you can get a sense of the original movie. Maybe some obsessive Arnold fan will make a homemade edit and upload it to YouTube.

The final version of Sabotage is a much different movie and Arnold is almost a good guy by the end, or at least one motivated by a desire to avenge his family. It's still worth a look for fans of Ayer's films and for anyone who'd like to see a movie shot in Georgia that's actually set in Georgia, but it looks like everyone involved was trying to make a more interesting film than the one we got to see.

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