Sabotage

SHOOT TO KILL

Main Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger

Director: David Ayer

Japanese Tea Garden, San Mateo, PD
Can you picture the dancers?? I can, and it’s stunning.

Production wrapped this week on my wonderful new holiday special, Dancing with the Star: MNM’s Salute to Holidays Around the World. It’s now up to my management team to nail down the final terms of broadcast. I must admit the last couple of days filming the modern Japanese Christmas number was a bit taxing. Eight hours of tapping through the Japanese Tea Garden with a line of chorines in traditional geisha costume (which we were able to rent cheap from El Paso Opera after they finished up a run of Madama Butterfly) is enough to try anyone’s soul. Still, the results are quite lovely and my time step goes so nicely with In the Bleak Midwinter, especially in the cunning Asian pop arrangement I had Normy whip up. We were so lucky to get Pink Lady for the back-up vocals to give it that authentic Japanese sound.

Jake_Ryan_and_Michigan_cheerleader by Cbl62
I can’t picture myself in an outfit like the gal on the left. The one on the right is much more moi.

My other project, the new football musical Any Given Sunday in the Park, has retained a new PR firm to raise awareness and get the ticket buying public all revved up for my return to the legitimate stage. We’re going to do the out of town try out here in Los Angeles at the Ahamson so we’re starting with a billboard campaign along Sunset and the I-10 corridor. The NFL and the producers were unable to come to terms over the use of the term Super Bowl for the climactic game so I suggested we call it the E-bowl so as to attract more millennials with their love of e-mail, e-commerce and e-everything else. The preliminary design has a large picture of me in a stunning chartreuse and aubergine gown, quite decollete, but with heavy black eye make-up, mimicking a football players and with a rather cunning football jersey number in gold lame just visible on the back of the bodice. The caption, in large and elegant script, reads “Vicki Lester is bringing you E-bowl! Aaaaaah!’ and then, in much smaller type, something about the show itself. I’m expecting quite the box office response at Telecharge once they go up next week.

Normy and I decided to take a break from our various projects to spend some time in the home theater. We made a large pitcher of mojitos and snuggled up together on the love seat carved with figures from the south transept of Chartres cathedral. We turned on the Netflix and settled on Sabotage, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s new film which came and went rather rapidly in theaters last spring. Normy and I have always enjoyed a good actioner and have loved some of Ah-nuld’s previous work for its campy good fun and his somewhat knowing winks at the ludicrous situations and ridiculous stunts that defy most of the laws of physics. Unfortunately, age and a gubernatorial term or two seem to have taken all the brio out of the man and Sabotage is one of the more painful movie watching experiences I have had all year.

Ah-nuld plays John ‘Breacher’ Wharton, head of a crack team of undercover DEA agents who specialize in gunning down Mexican narco-thugs in suburban McMansions. During one such operation, the team decides to siphon off a little of the narco-dollars but someone double crosses them and makes off with the money. The team members soon start being offed one by one, Ten Little Indians style. Is it the Mexican cartel? Is it a traitor amongst this band of brothers? Will the audience become restless and bored before the end of the film and cease to care? This is the plot, such as it is, and it’s all a bit muddled. The opening set piece is a raid on a Mexican cartel hideout which seems to be a fabulous party pad with hookers and blow in some shots and a grim bunker populated in overly armed thugs in others. How or why this transition happens or where the party people went is not explained. Perhaps there’s a large safe room for three dozen conveniently off screen. There are other equally illogical developments later in the film.

The film is written and directed by David Ayer, who has been behind a number of gritty urban thrillers over the course of the last decade. He made his name by writing the original The Fast and Furious and Training Day, the film that netted Denzel Washington his Oscar for playing against type. What little I know of his oeuvre suggests that the man has a view of the world formed by too many hours playing Grand Theft Auto and listening to Fox News pundits, who have never set foot in a low income neighborhood, pontificating on urban crime. His films tend to be nasty and brutish and Sabotage is no exception. I knew we were in trouble when the film started with Schwarzenegger watching what appears to be a snuff film on television. Scene after scene revels in callous brutality. The language is vile. I am no prude and literate authors such as David Mamet have been known to find a certain poetry in the more common four letter words but Ayer is no Mamet. Normy turned to me part way through and asked me if his ears were bleeding; they weren’t but I could see why he thought they might be. There’s also a lot of highly unnecessary dwelling on bodily functions. I think it’s supposed to make us bond with the band in a sort of frathouse way but it just makes us want to break out the Sani-wipes.

The film’ worst offense, however, is its overt misogyny. There are several lead roles for women including Mireille Enos as Lizzy, one of the agents who is the love interest for ‘Monster’ (a nearly unrecognizable Sam Worthington) as Ah-nuld’s second in command. The other is Olivia Williams as the Atlanta homicide detective (yes, a film about the drug war is set in Atlanta of all places – there must have been a tax break from the Georgia film commission) who becomes involved after the agents begin to be eliminated in various grisly ways. Neither woman is allowed to actually play a recognizable human female. Ms. Enos gets to play her character as coke whore Barbie, with about as much depth as a plastic doll and Ms. Williams, despite a perfunctory subplot in which she briefly becomes Ah-nuld’s love interest, seems to be playing a male character and mistakes professional earnestness with channeling Nancy Kulp. The underlying message is that horrible one, too often seen, that women are bitches, hos or need to be men.

There are some familiar names and faces in the supporting cast including Joe Manganiello, Josh Holloway and Terrence Howard as members of Ah-nulds band of merry men, but none of them is allowed to establish much of a character before the body count starts to mount, complete with more shots of unidentifiable body parts than any three David Fincher films. The mystery, once explained, isn’t all that mysterious and the whole tone of the movie is so nihilistic that it’s impossible to find any enjoyment. Ah-nuld’s character appears to be the same guy he played in the spoof The Last Action Hero 25 years ago, but so brooding and dull that we could care less about the tragedies that motivate him. The spoof version was at least kind of fun. In short, I can’t imagine what audience this movie was trying to reach and neither could the public, it flopped spectacularly at the box office as people stayed away in droves.

Cocaine snorting. Poop preoccupation. Exploding pallet of money. Gratuitous recreational vehicle on the railroad tracks. Man nailed to ceiling. Lake house wake. Gratuitous booby trapped trees. Decapitation by tow truck. Machine gunned Mexican bar patrons.

football photo by Cbl62

To learn more about Mrs. Norman Maine, read our Movie Rewind introduction, visit her complete back catalog  and follow her on Twitter at https://twitter.com/missvickilester

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