As the world (hopefully) eventually recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic, a question lingers, threatening to burn a hole through one’s mind: Will Arnold Schwarzenegger make a bigger movie comeback? Well, in some ways, he never went away from movies for very long. An example: David Ayer’s Sabotage. Released in 2014, Sabotage is a surprisingly respected action thriller film, despite being (in my opinion) perhaps too stereotypically crass and stupid for its own good. If you’re looking for an action movie that defies your expectations, you won’t really find it here.
Schwarzenegger plays a guy named John “Breacher” Wharton, a DEA Special Ops dufus who leads a corrupt team that steals $10 million from some criminal “bad guys.” Well, immediately things go wrong on the mission. Not only does one of their crew die, but very soon they cannot find the money, which already leads to the element of mystery. Soon, people in the crew start getting picked off one by one, meaning they have more to consider than where the money is hidden.
Is Sabotage any good?
As I said, I found this movie to be needlessly crass, to the point where it seemed forced. I hate to sound like a prude (I’m truly not), but the excess profanity, strip club scenes, drug use, and violence actually serve to distract from any genuine character development. Believe me, I feel weird making this critique, as I own films like Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead, but I just think that stuff got in the way. I think it would also work better if the movie was funnier, or scarier, or maybe even artsier.
That being said, the film does have positives. I think Sabotage does the important task of reminding us that things like DEA raids, spying, wiretaps, informants, etc. constitute a dirty business, with plenty of, let’s just say, low-grade participants. In short, this isn’t exactly a film that runs interference for the DEA, FBI, CIA, or other alphabet agencies. In addition to whoever is killing off agents over stolen money, most people in Wharton’s crew are no more respectable than bar patrons or liquor store lurkers. The primary difference is, of course, their specialized sets of skills (which they likely didn’t discover through their SAT tests).
Sabotage still plays it safe
Just like the characters wanting to find out where the money is, the makers of this film already found one possible answer: Making movies like this. Sabotage might make the DEA seem shifty, but it still appeals to the macho tropes that action movies are known for, even if it’s not as action movie-like as possible. Frankly, I’m surprised they didn’t have more American flags scattered throughout, or dangle soldier’s dog tags in front of our faces for the entire run-time. The final message (for me) was that “Yes, renegade, violent law enforcement is a dirty, dirty business, but it sure looks fun and necessary! And hey, why not go bad-ass rogue, enter the cartel’s compound and steal their ill-gotten money?”
To be fair, the movie isn’t that bad. One might expect it to be contaminated with explosives and cheesy one-liners, but it’s not absolutely brimming with those camp elements. In some respects, it reminds me of Predator minus Predator, where Billy (Sonny Landham) and the rest are replaced by colorfully named characters like Monster (Sam Worthington), Grinder (Joe Manganiello), and Pyro (Max Martini). Also, in addition to sprinkling a little distrust on corrupt alphabet agencies, there’s that simple dynamic of not trusting everyone you get close to. That’s usually a good source of dramatic tension, and this movie taps into that with some success (though it’s not really a nail-biter for me).
Final thoughts on Sabotage
Unfortunately, we live in a world where hostages are taken, and where guns, drugs, and human cargo still get smuggled. It’s overwhelmingly about that sweet, sweet cash. This is another movie about when such a plan fails. Regardless of what sets off an ambush, know that you’re playing with human lives. However, had this film been toned down and made a little more mainstream, we might be eating a Sabotage cereal with a free Pyro toy inside for the kids, or maybe an A-Team-like spinoff called “Breacher’s Bunch.”
What are your thoughts on Sabotage? Let us know in the comments!
Horror Noire, a Film Review
Horror Noire is a horror collection that includes “Daddy,” “The Lake,” “Brand of Evil,” “Bride Before You,” “Fugue State,” and “Sundown.”
Horror Noire is a horror collection brought by the combined efforts of AMC+ and Shudder. The collection includes “Daddy,” “The Lake,” “Brand of Evil,” “Bride Before You,” “Fugue State,” and “Sundown.” Horror Noire boasts Black directors and screenwriters, providing six unique stories.
As this collection explores six stories, I will skip the usual synopsis to assess the genres and ideas explored, albeit limited as needed. Expect to find supernatural horror, creature features, and psychological thrillers. Many short films deal with these genres while exploring Black issues, but this isn’t universal for the collection.
The directors and writers include Zandashé Brown, Robin Givens, Rob Greenlea, Kimani Ray Smith, Steven Barnes, Ezra Clayton Daniels, Tananarive Due, Shernold Edwards, Victor LaValle, and Al Letson.
What I Like
Each story remains unique, holding different strengths and weaknesses that highlight drastically different perspectives. Collections like VHS hold a similar premise to create their collection, but Horror Noire gives more creative freedom to its talent to be independent.
My personal favorite short film is Zandashé Brown’s “Bride Before You.” This period piece unravels a fable set in the Reconstruction Era. The entry feels Fabulistic in approach, which happens to be my preferred niche.
However, the best example of horror goes to Robin Givens’ “Daddy,” providing an existential horror tied directly to the characters involved.
What I Dislike
As mentioned, all have a particular style and idea. The downside of this approach always remains to keep the viewer interested long enough to find their favorite. If you find several underwhelming choices, this becomes a chore. But I imagine that is rare as the variety makes the options refreshing.
Personally, “Brand of Evil” had an interesting premise, but the execution fell short. On paper, it might have sounded like my favorite, which makes the lackluster execution a bigger letdown.
Horror Noire gives power and control to Black creators, providing a formula for a unique collection against others in the space. While the various subjects and approaches mean you aren’t likely to love them all, there should be a short film for everyone.
(3.5 / 5)
Episode six of Netflix’s Dahmer was not, honestly about our title character. Instead, it was about one of his victims, a man named Tony. We’ve actually seen Tony a few times during this series. We just didn’t know it was him.
And, well, he wasn’t exactly alive the first time we saw him.
Tony was born into a supportive, loving family. This is good because soon after he was born a viral infection took his hearing. He is black, deaf, and gay in the early 90’s.
Tony has a dream of becoming a model. And he certainly has the looks for it. He is beautiful, body and soul. He has lots of opportunities for romance, but it’s not what he’s looking for. He wants a real relationship.
Eventually Tony moves to Madison, trying to pursue his dream. He gets a job and starts getting modeling work.
Then, he meets Jeff Dahmer at a bar.
At first, we can almost believe that it’s going to be alright. Jeff seems happy. He’s taking care of himself. He’s not drinking as much. He even has his dad and stepmom over for dinner. It seems like his life is getting on track. Even better, he’s treating Tony right.
Then, of course, things go bad.
One thing that has always bothered me as a true crime fan is that we know so much about the killers, but not as much about the victims. Not so much if we don’t know who the killer is, of course. But the names that are part of our pop culture are those of the killers. Dahmer, Manson, Jones, Bundy, Holms. The names we don’t know are Roberta Parks, Beth LaBiancas, Leno LaBiancas, and Tony Hughes. And clearly, we should know them.
If Tony Hughes was half the shining, positive person that the show Dahmer made him out to be, I’m so sad that he isn’t with us anymore. We need so many more people like him. And many of Dahmer’s victims were likely just like him. After all, he was attracted to them for a reason.
This was a significant episode, and I understand why it’s the highest-rated episode of the series. I finished it with a heavy heart, saddened by the loss of a man who should still be with us today.(5 / 5)
Mandrake, a Film Review
Mandrake is a 2022 supernatural horror directed by Lynne Davison and written by Matt Harvey, starring Deirdre Mullins and Derbhle Crotty.
Mandrake is a 2022 supernatural horror directed by Lynne Davison and written by Matt Harvey. This film boasts a cast that includes Deirdre Mullins, Derbhle Crotty, and Paul Kennedy. It is currently available for subscribers in DirectTV, Shudder, Amazon Prime, or AMC+.
Cathy Madden (Deirdre Mullins) is a probation officer tasked with the most vilified case in her town, Mary Laidlaw (Derbhle Crotty). When a child goes missing, all eyes turn to the infamous Bloody Mary. Cathy, always believing in the best of people, tries to protect Mary. But evidence begins to mount, and Cathy finds herself in increasing danger.
What I Like
Deirdre Mullins and Derbhle Crotty add weight to the film in their performances. Cathy proves resilient against the challenges she faces, while Mary can make any actions intimidating.
To not spoil anything, the ending is bittersweet in the best of ways, showing Cathy grow and mend relationships.
The atmosphere around Mary Laidlaw brings about the intimidation that earns the nickname Bloody Mary. It becomes easier to see why a town would fear this woman as we find her motives sinister.
What I Dislike
While there may be external magical elements, I found people obeyed Mary Laidlaw a little too easily for a vilified woman. There wasn’t enough for me to be convinced she intimidated them to action or magically charmed them. Or perhaps the performances felt underwhelmingly passive?
There was an irritating moment where a stalker helped save the day. The assistance is minor, but it still irritates me.
The daytime scenes of the film are bland. Perhaps it’s intentional, but the night scenes are stunning, making the contrast greater. While this film focuses on its night scenes, I couldn’t understand why it looked so bland, and sometimes poor quality, in the day.
Mandrake can be a frightful enjoyment, especially when set at night where the details work. However, many elements left me wanting more or better. If you’re looking for a witchy tale, I’d say there are better options, but Mandrake can keep you entertained.
(2.5 / 5)