“Here’s a trailer for the latest Arnold Schwarzenegger movie.” These are words we’ll continue to hear for decades. Schwarzenegger’s physical and mental abilities may fade, and eventually, like the rest of us, he will shuffle off this mortal coil. But centuries from now, citizens of our expanding space empire will still find Arnie at the local space-multiplex, composed of stock footage and CGI and still performing the same basic action shtick in movies that are just OK. So allow me to continue a grand, cultural tradition that will echo on through the years: “Here’s a trailer for the latest Arnold Schwarzenegger movie.”
Specifically, Sabotage. Here, the Austrian Oak has a bit of pedigree to back him up. He’s working with a director (David Ayer) with loads of cops-shooting-at-things experience, having directed last year’s End of Watch and penned the screenplay for Training Day. Also, the cast is not terrible- and more importantly, not overstuffed with Schwarzenegger’s aging cohorts. Terrence Howard, Mireille Enos and Olivia Williams can all be relied on to provide a solid performance without mugging for the camera or pausing to flex a bicep every minute or so. The source material is a cut above average, with the film a loose interpretation of Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None, but Sabotage is also taking a few cues from one of Arnold’s bigger films: Predator. A team of elite operatives, being picked off one by one by an unknown force that can track their every move… sounds familiar, no? Maybe the villain of Sabotage isn’t an extraterrestrial big game hunter (although I’m secretly hoping otherwise), but the core idea’s pretty much the same.
Arnie’s taking a step or two in the right direction, and swathed in body armor and flanked by younger actors, he certainly looks the part of the grizzled old team leader. But three films into his post-government comeback, he’s had two weak showings (The Last Stand and Escape Plan) and a success that comes more from Expendables name recognition than his own star power. Even if Sabotage is great, people just might not want to see Arnold flicks with the same enthusiasm they did thirty years ago (even if he steadfastly continues to churn ‘em out).
What Schwarzenegger needs is some way of legitimizing himself in the eyes of all us young folk. Something to prove that he’s not set in his 80s action movie ways. And luckily enough, in the past week, another star of Arnold’s era has done the very same thing. You’ve probably seen it already, but just in case, here’s Jean-Claude Van Damme trying his hardest to make Volvo seem cool.
In one fell swoop, Van-Damme assured folks that, even if his movies aren’t so hot right now, he’s still hip to the latest trends- viral video and the soothing sounds of Enya. The hottest young stars are already imitating his bad-ass moves, and that’s something you can’t say about ol’ Arnie. Becoming the governor of California put him back in the spotlight for a little while, sure. But now that time is up and and relevance is quickly fading off into the distance. Arnold needs his own ‘Epic Split,’ some new recklessly dangerous publicity stunt that can assure the public he’s not just going through the motions.
Attempt a film that doesn’t have a single firearm in it. Find a vocal coach and show the world what his voice sounds like without that thick undercoating of accent. Hell, just pick up something heavy that folks don’t normally pick up. Maybe he can’t do a split between two moving Volvos, but he could probably juggle two or three. It’d be more interesting then seeing him attempt Conan the Barbarian one more time.