SABOTAGE So what’cha want? Arnold’s gotta fight for his right to party!

I CAN'T TELL YOU how Sabotage winds to its smashing climax. It would wreck everything. But I really want to. Because it's jaw-droppingly perfect. It's funny. It's beautiful. And it's violent.

So very, very nonchalantly violent. And for this movie, full of quiet spectacle and sickeningly realistic gore, that's saying something.

Arnold Schwarzenegger—shaking off a string of poorly chosen comeback vehicles—plays the charmingly lethal John "Breacher" Wharton, the father figure who's molded a misfit gang into the Drug Enforcement Authority's finest special ops team. They kill the bad guys who feed and water famous drug cartels, and they do it with a smile.

At least that's what they used to do. We meet them just in time to watch them fall—lured into an epic heist by the man they once trusted with their lives. The darkness really dawns soon after, when they realize the money's all gone. And then someone starts killing them off one by one.

The questions are obvious: Is it a cartel? Is it one of their own? But the answers—shaped by an Atlanta police homicide investigator (Olivia Williams) refusing to keep her nose out of some very dirty business—thankfully are not.

Sabotage's tension, sex, and remarkably natural paramilitary banter flow right from the playbook of director and co-writer David Ayer, who's made an underappreciated career mining the darker side of patriotism and the law, turning heroes into villains and then back again (see Training Day and Street Kings and Harsh Times).

Ayer also avoids making the whole thing come off like a "Schwarzenegger" movie. Schwarzenegger is a force of nature. He's also become a caricature of himself. Ayer gets the best of his star—the steel, the smirk, the boorishness—but reins him in by leaving him the understated leader of a hotheaded ensemble.

And also by drenching everything in blood. And sometimes entrails. It's hard to be a cartoon when you're covered in human offal. It's really easy to be awesome.