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.
It was a disappointing weekend for Star Trek fans as they saw the 10th installment of their favorite franchise defeated at the box office by J. Lo's new romantic comedy, Maid in Manhattan, which cleaned up with a sparkling $19 million.
Star Trek: Nemesis was flying in second place at less than warp speed with $18.8 million.
Drumline marched into third place with a high energy $13.1 million.
The Hot Chick opened with a not-so-hot $7.5 million in a fourth place tie.
Die Another Day showed good legs, tying for fourth with $7.5 million. With its cume now at $131.6 million, Die is now the biggest grossing Bond film ever in domestic theaters.
The weekend also saw an impressive platform release start for New Line's drama-comedy About Schmidt, which won best picture in the Los Angeles Film Critics' vote Saturday. The Alexander Payne film grossed about $283,000 at 6 theaters, averaging an enviable $47,167 per theater. (For details and comments by New Line Distribution president David Tuckerman see OTHER OPENINGS below.)
Key films grossed $98.5 million, up nearly 13 percent from this weekend last year when they did $87.5 million.
THE TOP TEN
Revolution Studios and Columbia Pictures' PG-13 rated romantic comedy Maid in Manhattan opened to a chart topping ESTIMATED $19.0 million at 2,838 theaters ($6,695 per theater).
Directed by Wayne Wang, Maid stars Jennifer Lopez and Ralph Fiennes.
"It is Jennifer's biggest (opening)," Sony Pictures Entertainment vice chairman Jeff Blake said Sunday morning.
"The Cell was $17.5 million (when it) opened Aug. 18, 2000. The demographics of the picture were about 60-40, female to male. The key to the success was the wide spread of ages. It was just about 50-50 over and under 25. I think all ages are looking at this as a picture for them and that is, perhaps, a combination of younger fans of Jennifer's and also that the movie, itself, is a real package that's a strong romantic comedy with a great cast (in addition to Lopez) with Ralph Fiennes, Natasha Richardson and Bob Hoskins. So it's certainly not just all on Jennifer's shoulders although they're very lovely shoulders to be on."
Focusing on why Maid did so well, Blake observed, "I think it's a story that people can identify with. We're thrilled with the placement because it seems for the holidays this is the kind of picture that could be the mutual choice of the entire family. It just is such an enjoyable, identifiable story.
"Normally, (when) you get a romantic comedy that gets a good start right before the holiday season, it can do five or six times its opening (weekend gross). So that certainly was what happened to pictures like Jerry Maguire and some others that have debuted prior to the holiday like Miss Congeniality. We certainly would love to see the same thing happen to us. We go into the holiday period in a pretty strong position and, obviously, being number one we couldn't have asked for a better start."
Blake also was pleased with how well Columbia and Intermedia Films' R rated Oscar contender Adaptation held up in its second weekend of platform release. Continuing at seven theaters, Adaptation grossed an ESTIMATED $274,000, averaging $39,150 and down only 29 percent from its opening weekend. Its cume is approximately $855,000.
Directed by Spike Jonze, it stars Nicolas Cage, Meryl Streep and Chris Cooper.
"We're adding approximately 100 screens on Friday (Dec. 20) and then expanding again on Jan. 10," Blake said. "We got an L.A. Film Critics award last night (for Chris Cooper for supporting actor and a runner-up screenplay award for Charlie Kaufman and Donald Kaufman) and we hope the good news keeps coming."
Paramount's PG-13 rated sci-fi franchise episode Star Trek: Nemesis, which insiders had expected to see orbiting atop the chart, opened a close number two with an ESTIMATED $18.75 million at 2,711 theaters ($6,916 per theater).
Directed by Stuart Baird it stars Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, Brent Spiner, Levar Burton and Michael Dorn.
The series' previous episode, Star Trek: Insurrection, blasted off the weekend of Dec. 11 to 13, 1998 in first place to $22.05 million at 2,620 theaters ($8,417 per theater). It grossed about $70 million in domestic theaters.
"Obviously, we would have liked to have had a little more opening (gross)," Paramount distribution president Wayne Lewellen said Sunday morning. "But the picture plays very well. We know that from our research screenings. And we've got the holidays in front of us. The biggest Star Trek ever was number four, which did like $110 million and it only opened to $17 million."
Twentieth Century Fox's PG-13 rated urban appeal hip-hop comedy drama Drumline took the field in third place to a surprisingly strong ESTIMATED $13.05 million at 1,833 theaters ($7,119 per theater).
Drumline's average per theater was the highest for any film playing in wide release this weekend.
Directed by Charles Stone III, it stars Nick Cannon, Zoe Saldana and Orlando Jones.
"It went up 30 percent from Friday to Saturday, which was the biggest bump of any of these first-weekers and that's a pretty good bump for a first weekend," Fox distribution president Bruce Snyder said Sunday morning. "We did a lot of matinee business Saturday and it's terrific. It's a great start and I think we're going to have a hell of a run right through the holidays."
In terms of opening weekend demographics, Snyder noted, "It was 60-40 African-Americans and non-African-Americans. That 40 percent is a pretty high place to start (in terms of crossover audience). So it's very encouraging. It's very high (crossover) for a first weekend. Usually, that doesn't happen until the third or fourth weekend on these primarily African-American movies. And 60 percent were under 25, so it's playing young."
As for why it's doing so well, Snyder pointed out, "From the CinemaScores, people loved it. It got straight A-pluses. The material grabbed people. The hip-hop element plays to all kids. And I think it's now in the culture. It's a little bit of everything -- music, dance, comedy, drama. It's fun.
"It looks like the theater count was pretty right. And it's where it belonged -- before Christmas. I think it's going to be great for all young people right on through the holidays."
Buena Vista/Touchstone Pictures' PG-13 rated comedy The Hot Chick opened with less heat than hoped for in a fourth place tie with an ESTIMATED $7.5 million at 2,217 theaters ($3,370 per theater).
Directed by Tom Brady, it stars Rob Schneider.
"When I looked at the CinemaScores for all four pictures (that opened) this weekend, they all really scored well," BV distribution president Chuck Viane said Sunday morning. "I think what's happened is, you have four choices on a weekend and you can only be first choice for so many people. I think with these scores and the very good news with us going up 17 percent last night (Saturday versus Friday) and some of the movies not going forward, it bodes well among our audience that we've got the whole holiday ahead of us."
Looking at the CinemaScores, Viane observed, "Hot Chick has two A's and four B-pluses. Maid in Manhattan has two A's and four B-pluses. And Star Trek has four A's and two B-pluses. Drumline has six A-pluses. It's impressive) when you think all of these movies scored that well. It's tough. There's no question. Every Friday when you're opening up against three or four pictures -- in the old days, it was you and one other (film) all the time, today you go up against three or four -- you really have to place your films well so that you can get to your intended audience during a period of time.
"Thankfully, today is Dec. 15 and we have about two and a half consecutive weeks of really strong play time ahead of us. All the way through Jan. 3 everything is very positive for everybody in the marketplace. If the audiences like it as much as this, then you definitely have your future ahead of you."
MGM and United Artists' PG-13 rated James Bond thriller Die Another Day slid three slots to tie for fourth place in its fourth week with a solid ESTIMATED $7.5 million (-42%) at 3,377 theaters (+30 theaters; $2,221 per theater). Its cume is approximately $131.6 million, heading for $165-175 million in domestic theaters.
Directed by Lee Tamahori and produced by Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, it stars Pierce Brosnan and Halle Berry.
The last Bond film, 1999's The World Is Not Enough, grossed $126.9 million in domestic theaters and $225.1 million in international theaters for a worldwide total of $352 million.
"It's now the biggest domestic grossing Bond ever," MGM senior vice president, publicity Eric Kops said Sunday morning.
Warner Bros.' PG rated sequel Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets fell three pegs to sixth place in its fifth week, holding nicely with an ESTIMATED $6.15 million (-39%) at 3,025 theaters (-362 theaters; $2,033 per theater). Its cume is approximately $222.4 million, heading for $275 million in domestic theaters.
Directed by Chris Columbus, it stars Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson.
Warner Bros. and Village Roadshow Pictures and NPV Entertainment's R rated comedy sequel Analyze That plunged five notches to seventh place in its second week with a weak ESTIMATED $5.32 million (-52%) at 2,635 theaters (theater count unchanged; $2,017 per theater). Its cume is approximately $19.6 million.
Directed by Harold Ramis, it stars Robert De Niro, Billy Crystal and Lisa Kudrow.
The 1999 original film in the series, Analyze This, grossed $106.7 million in domestic theaters.
Buena Vista/Disney's G rated comedy sequel Santa Clause 2 fell three two rungs to eighth place in its seventh week, still holding decently with an ESTIMATED $4.0 million (-25%) at 2,207 theaters (-149 theaters; $1,814 per theater). Its cume is approximately $125.4 million, heading for $140 million in domestic theaters.
Directed by Michael Lembeck, it stars Tim Allen.
Buena Vista/Disney's PG rated animated sci-fi adventure Treasure Planet dropped four slots in its third week to ninth place with a dull ESTIMATED $3.0 million (-46%) at 2,192 theaters (-1,035 theaters; $1,370 per theater). Its cume is approximately $27.8 million.
Directed by John Musker & Ron Clements, its screenplay is by Ron Clements & John Musker.
Rounding out the Top Ten was Arenas Entertainment and Universal's R rated urban action film Empire, down six pegs in its second week with a quiet ESTIMATED $2.78 million (-56%) at 869 theaters (+2 theaters; $3,195 per theater). Its cume is approximately $10.7 million.
Written and directed by Franc Reyes, it stars John Leguizamo, Peter Sarsgaard and Denise Richards.
This weekend also saw the arrival of New Line Cinema's R rated drama About Schmidt to an impressive ESTIMATED $283,000 at 6 theaters in New York, Los Angeles and Omaha (where much of the film was shot), averaging a hefty $47,167 per theater.
Directed by Alexander Payne, it stars Jack Nicholson.
Schmidt was honored Saturday night by the L.A. Film Critics as best picture. Nicholson tied for best actor (with Daniel Day-Lewis for Miramax's Gangs of New York). Payne and Jim Taylor won best screenplay. Kathy Bates was the best supporting actress runner-up for Schmidt (with Edie Falco winning for Sony Pictures Classics' Sunshine State).
"What's interesting about the L.A. Critics is that over the last 28 years (for) 25 times whoever has won the L.A. Critics award has gone on to be nominated for the best picture Oscar," New Line distribution president David Tuckerman said Sunday morning.
"We're really pleased. Jack's been getting all these accolades and rightly so for his performance. But (there's also) Alexander Payne's direction and Kathy Bates' (performance). Kathy Bates' performance is a brave performance (with her already much talked about nude hot-tub scene). I think it's terrific that everybody's getting acknowledged. Ensemble's the wrong word to use when you have a Jack Nicholson picture, but we've got these other strong performances and the film. It's not just Jack."
Looking ahead, Tuckerman said, "The plan now is we're taking 17 exclusive runs in 17 cities on Friday, Dec. 20. On Jan. 3 we're going to roll it out to anywhere from 600 to 800 screens altogether."
New Line is in the enviable position of launching the second of its mega-blockbuster Lord of the Rings franchise this Wednesday (Dec. 18). With Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, Tuckerman said, "We'll be (in) over 3,600 theaters and over 6,500 prints."
United Artists' PG rated drama Evelyn opened quietly via MGM in platform release to an ESTIMATED $72,000 at 15 theaters ($4,824 per theater).
Directed by Bruce Beresford, it stars Pierce Brosnan.
Warner Bros. held 825 very successful sneak previews Saturday of its PG-13 rated romantic comedy Two Weeks Notice.
Written and directed by Marc Lawrence, it stars Sandra Bullock and Hugh Grant.
"We had great sneaks last night," Warner Bros. Distribution president Dan Fellman said Sunday morning. "We had 85 percent capacity. We don't do exits on the sneaks, but the reaction that we had through the EDI service (which asks theater managers for details) was that the picture played extremely well."
Notice opens Friday (Dec. 20) at about 2,700 theaters.
On the expansion front this weekend Samuel Goldwyn Films' R rated drama El Crimen del Padre Amaro went wider in is fifth week with a slow ESTIMATED $0.3 million (-34%) at 127 theaters (+5 theaters; $2,105 per theater). Its cume is approximately $3.5 million.
Directed by Carlos Carrera, it stars Gael Garcia Bernal and is the official Mexican entry in this year's best foreign language film Oscar race.
Key films -- those grossing more than $500,000 -- took in approximately $98.55 million this weekend, up about 12.65 percent from last year when they totaled $87.48 million.
Key films were up about 28.34 percent from last weekend of this year when they totaled $76.79 million.
Last year, Paramount's opening week of Vanilla Sky was first with $25.02 million at 2,742 theaters ($9,123 per theater); and Warner Bros.' second week of Ocean's Eleven was second with $22.08 million at 3,075 theaters ($7,179 per theater). The top two films one year ago grossed $47.1 million. This year, the top two films grossed an ESTIMATED $37.8 million.