Open Road Films via Everett Collection
David Ayer's Sabotage is just the latest stop in Arnold Schwarzenegger's comeback tour, though it probably won't do the actor too many favors. Schwarzenegger plays John "Breacher" Wharton, the leader of an elite DEA task force that specializes in taking down drug cartels. Each member of the team is a blunt instrument drunk off of their alpha male (and female) machismo, but to be fair, they are damn good at what they do. They're masters at going in hard, killing whoever needs killing, and heading to the strip club and drinking themselves into a stupor before the next round of street sweeping. Unfortunately, it turns out years of busting cartel bosses and being deeply unpleasant to everyone you come into contact with eventually catches up to you, and members of the squad start dying in ghastly and elaborate ways. And just like that, we have what basically amounts to an Agatha Christie novel with a gym membership and a pile of meth.
Unfortunately, and as expected, giving Agatha Christie a couple of reps at the gym and a pile of drugs turns her into a blithering idiot, because Sabotage is incredibly stupid. The central mystery somehow manages to be both preposterous and predictable at the same time. The film's one saving grace is its action. The action scenes are adrenal and exciting and unbelievably gory. Bloated corpses are poked and prodded, viscera hangs like ropes from a rafter. This film takes immense pleasure in being completely disgusting. It’s downright gleeful about it. Here's a full shot of a soiled toilet, just because. Here's a piece of skin hanging on some metal, why not. Isn't that cool?
While Sabotage does manage to thrill in spurts and stutters, there's absolutely nothing beating at the heart of the film. All of the main characters are completely and utterly repugnant, and you'll pity anyone who has to endure their company throughout the film. When characters do start to die, you won't feel all that broken up about it. In fact, you may even feel a twinge of joy, like the earth was suddenly unburdened from a pure source of rampant douchebaggery. Just imagine the most disgusting, and off-putting person you can, and then give them a gun, a badge, and a fierce sense of entitlement, and you have every single member of the film's DEA squad. They're all terrible.
And if that weren't bad enough, the acting ranges from mediocre to terrible. The usually wonderful Olivia Williams and the capable Sam Worthington continually forget which continent they're on, their accents dropping in an out like a bad radio connection; Schwarzenneger has a complete inability to emote anything apropos of the situation at hand. When looking upon a pile of ooze that was formerly in the shape of one of his best friends, his disappointment is more akin to seeing a temporarily occupied gym bench on chest day. All of the charm the actor showcased in something like the recent Escape Plan is washed out by Breacher's moping about his dark past, and when Schwarzenneger isn't allowed to be fun, then he's completely boring.
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Really, I should hate Sabotage. It’s a completely stupid and mean spirited film, but there’s a strange charm to the depravity of it all. There's an audaciousness to it. The film goes as far as it can to push limits, and succeeds at being appaling. It’s a film that knows how stupid and ugly it is and champions that fact. It’s playing in its own filth, and as gross as that is, at least it’s having fun. This is the kind of film that will be in heavy rotation at the local frat house. That’s doesn’t mean the film is good or even okay, but if you like watching horrific violence, awful mysteries, and awful people being awful, then boy do I have a film for you.
The latest movie in the Step Up franchise aims for a politicized message behind all the flashy moves but it could do with a lot less plot and a lot more dancing. In Step Up Revolution the Miami dance group "The Mob" takes to the streets (and other random locations) to perform intricately choreographed routines with their own DJ a camera guy who uploads their videos to YouTube and a graffiti artist who leaves their signature behind. It takes at least that much effort just to get hipster New Yorkers to ride the subways without any pants on once a year; it's hard to believe that The Mob could pull off their elaborate schemes without getting caught but that's the magic of movies.
The Mob represents the more diverse working class side of Miami a young multiracial group of friends who create incredible works of art that disappear before they get shut down. One of the Mob's leaders Sean (Ryan Guzman) earnestly explains to newcomer Emily (Kathryn McCormick) that the group's reason is to give a voice to the voiceless or to be happy or to dance or something. It's not really clear but they have a lot of fun and look amazing doing it.
Once Sean and his friends find out that a greedy developer plans to raze their neighborhood to make way for another South Beach-style hotel monstrosity they have a reason to rally but until then they're just trying to win a cash prize by getting clicks on YouTube. The typical Step Up twist is that Emily is the developer's daughter. Mr. Anderson (Peter Gallagher) doesn't approve of Emily's love of dancing or other frippery and he certainly wouldn't approve of her hanging out with the people causing such mayhem in the streets of Miami.
Step Up Revolution biggest misstep is trying to give the movie more of a hook than the franchise's typical Romeo and Juliet-style love story and tap into "the Zeitgeist" (I swear that's from the studio-provided press notes) of flash mobs. The film could have cut out most of the plot and characters and still have a completely intact film insofar as the point of the film is its multimedia dance routines. The sort of productions The Mob pulls off are more akin to carefully planned art installations or music videos in terms of scope; it would have been better to at least make that somehow feasible in terms of the storyline. Yes we are here for a spectacle and we surely get a spectacle but it needs to have some roots in reality.
The dance scenes are fun sexy and occasionally a little sappy but overall quite enjoyable for people who enjoy "So You Think You Can Dance" type of shows. Kathryn McCormick and Stephen "tWitch" Boss both appeared on "SYTYCD" and their costar Misha Gabriel is a classically trained ballet dancer turned pro back-up dancer for folks like Beyoncé and Michael Jackson. Guzman doesn't have a dance background but he is an MMA fighter who obviously took his training very seriously. The entire outfit is pretty damn entertaining to be honest.
As far as the 3D goes it makes most of Miami look overcast and grey. The extra zings added in to make sure we get our money's worth like sand flicking out at us or a breakdancer whose foot seems to be aiming for our face only serves to distract from the real show at hand. There is also an awful lot of ramping and generally spazzy editing tricks that look cheap. The screenplay by Amanda Brody is definitely not its strong suit.
Step Up Revolution is the cinematic equivalent of a trashy beach novel. It's embarrassing to be caught actually enjoying it and you'll forget about it almost immediately but it's a decent way to spend a summer afternoon.
Michael Eisner's stocking felt a little lighter last year.
That's because the Disney chief missed out on his Christmas bonus (which was $5 million in 1998), in the wake of unmagical financial days at the Magic Kingdom. Despite the entertainment giant's boffo year at the box office (Disney was No. 1 among the Hollywood studios), its flagging consumer products and licensing divisions cut into revenue.
But don't cry for Eisner. The longtime Disney CEO (he's been there since 1984) owned $68.4 million worth of unexercisable "in-the-money" stock options as of the end of September.
O'BOY FOR O'DONNELL: Rosie O'Donnell is a mother - again. The comic turned actress turned talk-show host has added to her brood with the adoption of a third child, son Blake Christopher, born one-month premature at 5 pounds, 5 ounces. O'Donnell tells today's New York Daily News that the baby is "very healthy. He is half-Italian, half hodgepodge, and everyone is delighted."
Blake joins older siblings Parker, 4, and Chelsea Belle, 2.
BUSTED: Blaxploitation-era film star Jim Brown ("Three the Hard Way") was sentenced today in Los Angeles to six months in jail for blowing off the terms of probation stemming from a domestic-violence case. Brown, 64, was ordered to undergo counseling and perform community service after being convicted last month of vandalizing his wife's car.
Brown objected, noting he was busted only for vandalism, not abuse. The ex-football star's sentencing judge wasn't buying, ordering Brown to jail. The actor/athlete will remain free while the case is on appeal. Brown most recently appeared in Oliver Stone's sports flick, "Any Given Sunday."
ASHES TO ASHES: Patsy Kensit ( "Angels and Insects") hugs her Mum when she's feeling low, and keeps her by the bedside - two things that ordinarily might threaten the actress' marriage to Oasis lead singer Liam Gallagher.
Except Gallagher's mother-in-law isn't really in the couple's bedroom - unless you count ash form.
Kensit ordered a "nice big posh" urn from a catalog after recalling that her (late) mother suffered from claustrophobia, she tells GQ magazine. And when she argues with her husband, Kensit climbs into bed and cuddles the urn.
"[Liam] says I'm like something out of 'The Munsters,'" Kensit says. A
DUET WITH PUFFY CONSIDERED UNLIKELY: Actress and frequent headline-grabber Jennifer Lopez will be shaking her much-discussed bon-bon onstage this month at the American Music Awards.
Lopez, whose music career took off in '99 with the multiplatinum album, "On the 6," has been added to slate of live performers for the big show, to be broadcast Jan. 17 on ABC. At the awards, Lopez is up for Favorite New Pop/Rock Artist and Favorite Latin Artist.
OBITUARY: Bernhard Wicki, who co-directed the 1962 war epic "The Longest Day," died today of a long illness. He was 80.
Wicki, born in 1919 in Austria, studied theater and began his career as an actor, but will be best remembered as one of the most acclaimed German-language filmmakers. His English-language films included: 1964's "The Visit" with Ingrid Bergman and Anthony Quinn, and 1965's "Morituri" with Marlon Brando.