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Review: Schwarzenegger shows old tricks familiar to long-time fans

He’s back. And he’s very much back to his roots.

Arnold Schwarzenegger leads a team of elite DEA agents in "Sabotage."
Open Road

For those who reveled in every new Arnold Schwarzenegger movie release in the ’80s, enjoying Sabotage won’t prove difficult. The film opens today (March 28).

It’s a throwback to the badass characters that the Guvenator portrayed way back when. Think Commando and Raw Deal, only with a lead character that’s wiser and more cynical. Another big difference: a discernible plot.

That shouldn’t surprise considering it came from David Ayer, the writer behind Training Day, the Antoine Fuqua directed film that won Denzel Washington his second Academy Award. Sabotage shares many traits with that story from the streets, more stylistically than substantively.

Sabotage is gritty, grimy and your face and it strives to be something more than a story about a group of cops. Actually, it’s a story about an elite team of Drug Enforcement Agency agents. We meet them as they prepare to take down the kingpin of a cartel.

They infiltrate his safe house, which is little more than a home to approximately $200 million in drug money. However, these agents led by Breacher (Schwarzenegger) and including Monster (Sam Worthington), Sugar (Terrence Howard), Grinder (Joe Manganiello), Lizzy (Mirielle Enos) and Pyro (Max Martini) aren’t exactly squeaky clean.

The Atlanta-based crew skims $10 million of the pile of cash and eventually come under scrutiny by the DEA. Fortunately, for them their agency can find no evidence of wrong doing on their part and must reinstate them.

It’s what happens after their return that propels Sabotage’s action and provides its intrigue. As they began to prepare for their return to duty, members of the team die mysteriously.

Those deaths attract the attention of Caroline (Olivia Williams) and Atlanta police detective. Pretty soon she finds herself working with Breacher to help learn who is hunting his people.

Ayer directs Sabotage from the script he co-wrote with Skip Woods (The A-Team) in a documentary style that keeps the action in the audience’s face for much of the film. Ayer puts reality on full display with a style that possesses grit. Sometimes it’s too realistic, reveling in the blood that splashes on the screen.

The film may resemble something a younger Schwarzenegger may have done back in the day, but Ah-nuld’s character is far more contemplative and restrained. Age, after all, is a bitch. Also worthy of note: Enos, whose Lizzy represents tragedy waiting to happen.

Schwarzenegger has been back at this acting thing for a little bit. However nothing of substance has come from it yet. What about Sabotage? It has the benefits of those ‘80s-era films and like them it possesses some charm, but that only lasts so long.

Movie: Sabotage
Director: David Ayer
Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Olivia Williams, Terrence Howard, Joe Manganiello, Harold Perrineau
Studio: Open Road
Rated: R for strong bloody violence, pervasive language, some sexuality/nudity and drug use.
Running time: 109 minutes
George’s rating: 2.5-of-5
Check for theaters and showtimes at Atlas Cinemas, Cleveland Cinemas, Fandango.com and MovieTickets.com