After stealing ten million dollars from a drug cartel, the DEA Team responsible starts to get picked off, one by one. It’s up to their leader, veteran renegade John “Breacher” Wharton to stop the killings.
I was lucky enough to get my hands on a copy of the shooting draft of Sabotage, which was filmed as Ten, was briefly renamed Breacher (the best title in my opinion), was then retitled Ten again, and is now called Sabotage – the most generic title imaginable. The film was directed by David “End of Watch” Ayer and stars Arnold Schwarzenegger, along with a great ensemble cast featuring Sam Worthington, Terrence Howard, Max Martini and The Killing’s Mirielle Enos. Skip (A Good Day to Die Hard) Woods wrote the original screenplay, but this draft is credited to Woods with MAJOR rewrites by Ayer.
The script opens with John “Breacher” Wharton and his elite DEA Team (with names like Monster, Grinder, Sugar, Neck and Lizzy) in the middle of a raid on a drug cartel mansion. Bad guys get blown away left, right and center. We see that Breacher and his crew are the best at what they do. We also see that they are dirty.
Breacher and his team pocket $10 million in cash (hence the original title Ten) and torch the rest of the evidence so it looks like nothing survived. Unlike most movies, where they would get away with it and fight over who gets the cash, the team immediately fall under suspicion after some crafty investigators deduct that money is missing. Breacher and his team are split up. For six months, Breacher, covered in bad-ass tattoos and sporting a militairy haircut to-die-for, gets stuck at a desk and has to wear a suit. No one can touch the millions.
The consensus around the Agency is that Breach and his men are guilty, but proving it is tough. This brings in a great sequence where Breach is tailed to work everyday by DEA. It has become such a routine, that Breach brings the men breakfast and loans them movies to watch to pass the time while they are staking out his house.
With no evidence and no one talking, Breach gets his unit back. and it’s party time. The Team hit the range hard, and hit the bars harder.
After one eventful night out, one of Breacher’s crew calls it a day and heads home to his RV – which is promptly hit by a train, splattering the man and his vehicle all over the tracks. Enter Investigator Caroline Brentwood, who thinks it was simply an accident, despite Breacher’s protests. Soon, and in spite of herself, she ends up siding with Breacher because one by one, more of his team are killed in creative ways – and all fingers point to the cartel the stolen money belonged to. Breacher and Brentwood form an unlikely partnership to solve the killings. Their investigation leads them where they thought they would never go…and straight into a twisted tale of revenge and bloodshed.
What worked about Sabotage (just can’t say that name without cringing) is its authenticity. Thanks to Ayer’s obssession with cops and criminals, everything seems real – from the lingo to the action – to the characters. Hell, its understandable why the team steals the cash. They’re not evil, greedy people out to rule the world. They figure they’ve got it coming after years of facing guns and dodging bullets.
Like Ayer’s other directorial effort, Street Kings, Sabotage showcases close-quarter shootouts and hand-to-hand battles. He even throws in a spiffy climactic car chase just to round out the mayhem. And like his other work, he is a great at capturing the politics of our modern law enforcement agencies.
Make no mistake about it, Sabotage is a man’s entertainment. And for Arnold, Breacher will be one of his most complex and meaty roles. Wharton is a broken man who has paid the utlimate price for his career. He is not a two dimensional B-movie cop. He comes off as real. Breacher is basically a summation of every tough guy role Schwarzenegger has ever played. Much like Eastwood’s William Munny in the stellar Unforgiven, Breacher plays with the legend of who this tough guy is and turns it on its head. I found myself constantly wanting to turn the pages to see what happened next. Let me tell you, I read many scripts, and this doesn’t happen very often!
I cannot wait for January to hit, so I can see how this screenplay translates to the big screen. After two great films (Street Kings and End of Watch), I am confident Ayer will deliver something solid, and maybe a little daring.