Arnold Schwarzenegger gets one of his most complex roles yet in this messy, violent thriller, another trip to the dark side for filmmaker David Ayer. As in Training Day and End of Watch, Ayer is exploring that moral tipping point where the people charged with protecting society become a danger. But the formula sags badly in this sloppily written script, which relies on grotesque violence instead of a coherent plot.
Schwarzenegger plays Breacher, the head of an elite DEA squad that has just stolen $10m in drug-bust cash. But someone takes it from them, after which the team members start turning up murdered in increasingly vicious ways. So Breacher and his colleagues - hothead Monster (Sam Worthington), prickly Lizzy (Mireille Enos), beefy Grinder (Joe Manganiello), hotshot Next (Josh Holloway) and smoothie Sugar (Terrence Howard) - band together to find the killer. Meanwhile, two local Atlanta cops (Olivia Williams and Harold Perrineau) are also on the case, clashing with Breacher at every turn. And shadowy goons hired by a drug cartel are lying in wait.
For about two-thirds of the running time, this is actually an intriguing whodunit, complete with clues and red herrings, suspicions and surprises. There's also a sense of urgency, as we never know who's going to get it next. Although the escalating grisliness is hard to stomach (it even reduces seasoned cops to retching wrecks), as is a hint of unnecessary romance. Then when the truth is revealed, the whole movie collapses into utter nonsense, desperately straining for moral resonance but undermining its own point with gratuitous brutality.
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