If you are desperate to see Arnold Schwarzenegger in another aging tough cop role, then Sabotage isn’t such a bad bet. Don’t get me wrong, it is in every way a truly terrible film, but like the best Arnie flicks, there is just enough tongue-in-cheek to keep you watching. The film is violent, sadistic, misogynistic, gratuitously nasty, and often stupid and confusing, but then you aren’t going to pay money to see Sabotage if you expected finely crafted drama. Sabotage moves forward with all the subtlety of a Hummer, ignoring gaping plot holes as it moves on to its next violent encounter between an elite DEA unit and a drug cartel out for revenge. Director David Ayer has had a mixed track record, but hit pay dirt with the outstanding cop buddy drama End of Watch in 2012 and also wrote the screenplay for another outstanding cop drama Training Day. Sabotage aspires to the same kind of ambiguity about the fine line between crime and law enforcement, but fails to find the same level of emotional involvement in the characters or thoughtfulness about its themes, and is content to make lots of noise and spill lots of blood.
Another teen fantasy about being different and discovering who you really are. Divergent is at best mildly entertaining, but one-dimensional characters and the dominance of style over content pull the plug on the film’s appeal. Set in a dystopian future, there are echoes of Harry Potter and The Hunger Games, and ultimately a debt to Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. Sadly, it doesn’t have the entertainment value or depth of the above mentioned, and relies on the usual tropes of teenage rebelliousness seeing through the hypocrisies of adult society to do most of its work. In a society divided into factions based on innate physical and mental qualities, Tris (Shailene Woodley) learns she is a Divergent, a person who cannot be categorized within the system. Divergents are regarded as a danger to society and when Tris discovers a plot to destroy all Divergents, she joins with others in a race against time to find out what really sets her apart. There is plenty of room for sententious platitudes about conquering your fear and being true to who you are, and director Neil Burger fails to show restraint, making Divergent a disappointing comedown from films such as The Lucky Ones and Limitless.
The Way, Way Back
A charming film. Even an enjoyable film. It is heartfelt and warm. It is also trite and utterly predictable from beginning to end. And that does not really matter too much. It is a coming of age story in which 14-year-old Duncan (Liam James) goes on a summer vacation with his mother, Pam (Toni Collette), her overbearing boyfriend, Trent (Steve Carell) and his daughter, Steph (Zoe Levin). He has trouble fitting in until he finds an unexpected friend in gregarious Owen (Sam Rockwell), the manager of a water park. He starts to blossom as a thoughtful, sensitive and adventurous teen. The cast does excellent work throughout, and James and Rockwell build up a real chemistry that keeps the film afloat even though we know everything about it before we are halfway through. It has the same kind of oddball aspirations of Little Miss Sunshine and Juno, but without the edgy humor and anarchic sensibility of these films, it manages to be no more than a craftsmanlike piece of filmmaking that entertains but is not particularly memorable. You could do worse.