If the red band and NSFW trailer for David Ayer’s new film, simply titled Sabotage, indicates anything, it’s that Arnold Schwarzenegger is through with winking and nudging; unlike recent efforts ranging from 2013’s excellent The Last Stand to the far more middling The Expendables films, this new DEA action thriller puts him firmly in po-faced, no-nonsense mode. Apart from a couple off-hand wisecracks in the clip, seen above, the film shows Arnold getting rather dramatic while keeping him rooted within his comfort zone as an actor. Arnold, after all, just isn’t Arnold if he’s not packing heat.
And judging by the preview, he’ll need it if he’s going to make it out the other end of Ayers’ latest foray into gritty, faux-realist crime stories. Sabotage details the exploits of disciplined, hard-nosed DEA agent John “Breacher” Wharton (Schwarzenegger) and his elite unit of drug busting super cops. The team scores a serious coup by taking down a notorious, big-time cartel leader, but when millions of dollars recovered in the mission go missing, someone takes it upon themselves to start gruesomely bumping off Wharton’s people.
Finding out who, naturally, drives the film’s entire plot. Reportedly, Ayer has called upon the work of crime author and master of suspense Agatha Christie (specifically her novel And Then There Were None) for inspiration, so for as graphic and bloody as Sabotage appears to be, the movie’s most important element is that overarching sense of mystery. At a glance, it looks like a classic whodunit shell peppered with micro-explosions of brutal violence; there are almost as many precise, shocking head-shots here as lines of actual dialogue.
The search for the truth behind the murders and the theft of the cartel’s cash and those blood-splattered moments of gunplay intermingle with one of Ayer’s other favored interests: the bonds formed in the line of duty. As with his last film, 2012’s solid police procedural End of Watch, Sabotage seems to concern itself greatly with the ways in which its characters all relate to each other. Following with one of the more popular tropes of cop drama fare, Wharton and his team are like a big, badass family.
Ayer did a great job exploring that kind of relationship with End of Watch, whose two protagonists (Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña) read as brothers instead of just co-workers. Sabotage boasts a strong line-up of actors to stand beside Schwarzenegger here, from World War Z‘s and The Killing‘s Mireille Enos to Prisoners‘ Terrence Howard; it stands to reason that he should be able to foster a similar dynamic here.
We’ll see for sure at the end of March, when Sabotage enjoys its theatrical release. If Ayer can deliver the goods with his action sequences, and if his cast makes good on their potential, then this should be a pretty nice ride.
Sabotage arrives in theaters on March 28th, 2014.