Sabotage

The first weekend it was in theaters my friend Billy and I saw Iron Man together. As we were heading to the car I asked him what he thought of the movie. He told me that he thought it was okay, but he wished that they had used the Black Sabbath song of the same name more; he was disappointed that it didn't show up at all until the end credits, when he'd been waiting for it the whole time. 

Billy is going to be very disappointed in Sabotage then: there isn't a single use of the iconic Beastie Boys song in this movie. To be honest with you, it's an oversight that kind of bothered me, too. The Black Sabbath song is so heavy that it doesn't really fit the cocky-funny tone that Iron Man was going for, but Sabotage is a movie about a rogue team of DEA super-agents, and it's all testosterone all the time, so the Beastie Boys song would have fit right in. It might have been a bit on-the-nose, but then again, Sabotage isn't exactly the most subtle movie I've ever seen.

Sabotage has enough solid character notes in it that I wouldn't say that it has a bad script for an action movie, but that's a pretty backhanded compliment given how bad most action movie scripts are. In fact, it has the sort of dumb plot that sinks lots of thrillers. The movie starts with a DEA super-team skimming some cash off of a giant pile of money they find in a cartel boss's basement, but then instead of confiscating the rest of the money to turn in as evidence they blow it up with a grenade. Now, I don't know what the actual protocol is for handling a pile of money like that, but I can't imagine that it's "explode it before it can be counted", so already this made me a bit skeptical. However, the next scene doubles down on the insanity by revealing that they are being investigated by their bosses - not for destroying evidence as I would have guessed, but because somehow their bosses knew how much was supposed to be in the cash pile and they somehow know that less than that got grenaded. (I don't... I mean... Question mark?)  Since the entire plot hinges on what happened to that stolen money and why, the fact that those opening scenes have severe logic holes in them represents a real problem, with negative repercussions on everything from character motivation to plot twists.

That said, the film isn't all bad. The casting in particular is great, with the super team being composed of well selected bad-ass types (biker looking dude, soldier looking dude, Arnold Schwarzenegger), but then complimented by Lizzy Murray, a hard-ass woman played by Mireille Enos, who steals almost every scene she's in. The fact that she was able to go toe-to-toe with some of Hollywood's machoest actors is impressive, but she also gives the character the appropriate amount of depth and emotion when the scene calls for it instead of retreating into a caricature of toughness and staying there. Furthermore, the fact that the movie with this much testosterone passes the Bechdel test is super cool - Murray has a conversation about strippers with an FBI agent played by Olivia Williams at one point, which might not be the ideal way to pass a Bechdel test but I'll take it.

There's a lot of factors in Sabotage's favor (it has a strong ending, with a big chase scene that's pretty cool, and the violence of the final scene is pretty chilling) - but just as many factors against it (the more I think about it, the less sense it makes). Honestly, since it was better than a lot of similar shoot 'em ups about double crosses I'm tempted to give myself a win here... But if Billy can be mad about Iron Man's underuse of Black Sabbath then I'm allowed to let my Beastie Boys fandom cast the tiebreaking vote that bumps this down to a draw.

Winner: Draw

Sabotage on IMDB