FUBAR. Retired Heroes HIT HARD [Review]

I’m genuinely curious how Arnold Schwarzenegger’s acting career will develop after Fubar.

Lukasz Budnik

27 May 2023

You will scrape the barnacles off my stick. – to hear such a line years later from the mouth of Arnold Schwarzenegger is poetry for the ears. Not only that, in a series produced by Netflix, and in good style. The action hero archetype created by Schwarzenegger back in the 1980s has now taken on a whole new flavor. By referring to the style of True Lies, and maybe even a bit to the James Bond series, Fubar represents all that is best in typically entertaining, light action cinema, even though it is, after all, a series. And at the same time, it is not a casual comedy, but a well-designed visual and plot reflection on the actor’s retirement of a man who has achieved everything in the world of film, i.e. has become a legend without whom my generation cannot imagine cinema today.

When I watch Fubar like this, I realize that I wouldn’t mind seeing Arnold Schwarzenegger in some sitcom, or a combination of a sitcom and a typical advice program, such as Canada’s The Red Green Show. Of course, the retired Terminator was already as Pop or Carl, so Schwarzenegger would be just himself in such a production, so success is guaranteed. In Fubar, he is also himself. There is nothing left to lose with your career. He probably feels distant to himself. So he behaves normally in front of the camera, with his characteristic heaviness, a smile, as if he is still stuck in the role of another version of the terminator in time, but on the other hand, he participates quite satisfactorily in quite dense dialogues with his on-screen daughter Emma (Monica Barbara). They made a great duo of an acerbic father, for whom the wayward and paradoxically very similar daughter constantly argues with him, fights, but secretly cannot imagine life without her beloved dad. There is no trace of pathos or unnecessary over-talking in this account. However, there are cut retorts and points that are sometimes worth remembering. These are followed by a cut and often a somewhat sitcom shot of a house, a CIA headquarters, a new urban location from around the world, etc. Episodes of the series are not excessively long, and cuts sometimes occur at surprising moments. All this creates a dynamic action, and at the same time does not allow the viewer to forget that he is not watching a full-length film, but a series.

All the time I focus on Arnold Schwarzenegger, because he is undoubtedly the greatest attraction of the production. However, he would not have achieved such an image success, at least in my mind, if it wasn’t for his team – less known actors, but playing very individualized characters. Not only their faces are remembered, but their personalities. Schwarzenegger, as a CIA officer, commands a bit of a group of outcasts who are unlikely to pose as professional agents, but this is a comedy in the form of a True Lies. From what I can see from the comments, some viewers are already starting to wage rampant, internet wars about how illogical, unrealistic and unfunny this series is, especially since Arnie’s group of associates includes an African American and a blond lesbian with quite masculine features, i.e. a standard lesbian has be fat and ugly. Thus, the creators of the production are not very politically correct, because for such an image they can get hit by libertarian activists, and at the same time they will confirm the painful stereotype functioning as a nasty, stigmatizing joke in groups of conservative men who are not very bright in terms of upbringing. I can almost hear this rubbing of sticky, malicious hands on familiar movie forums. The series is also not very correct when it comes to the role of the father in the child’s life, but that’s a good thing. There will be much to discuss. The creators of Fubar probably don’t care about such potential annoyances, because they really mean nothing to Fubara’s popularity, and maybe they will even drive it.

What matters is the interesting form of the narrative, which is based on a combination of a typical father-daughter relationship with the more or less successive pursuit of the antagonist Boro (Gabriel Luna) throughout the series. Those viewers who expected pure action and plenty of killings by Schwarzenegger in the production will unfortunately be disappointed. That’s not what Fubar is about. The action based on gunshots, meat and blood is an addition to the plot, one can even say that it functions in second place compared to the comedy psychological adventures of Brunner’s daughter and Brunner’s father, who tries to control his adult child at all costs, although the surrounding reality had long since gotten out of control. There is a deeper meaning and method in this comedy, and perhaps existential pastiche. Schwarzenegger plays a bit of himself. He reflects on his past, children and marriage, while entertaining the viewer and reminding him from time to time – not too often – that in retirement he can still hit very hard. This is what the scenes where, with the participation of a psychotherapist from the CIA, he works through communication problems with his daughter, which are the main reason for the breakdown of his marriage.

I’m genuinely curious how Arnold Schwarzenegger’s acting career will develop after Fubar. I must admit that I would like to see him again in the new installment of Terminator, although he does not see himself in this series anymore. The latest Netflix production, however, shows that Schwarzenegger would have a chance to play the role of a hero in retirement, but an elderly man who takes part in a typical moral story, maybe with comedy plots, but without any explosions or breaking bones. Someone a little old-fashioned, but not quite outdated yet. Fubar gives this chance, being at the same time a series that should not have more than one season. Such stories are not about mass production of episodes, but about telling the story concisely. The father-daughter pair of the Brunners, on the other hand, would have a chance in a feature-length film combining The Man from U.N.C.L.E., True Lies, and The Saint.

Fubar is an interesting spectacle and even a pop culture phenomenon for fans of Schwarzenegger. It is firmly embedded in Arnold’s personality, although it is not exhausted by it. It refers to his life, relationships with women and children, their good and bad sides. Contains lots of easter eggs, e.g. from Predator, Terminator and Last Action Hero. Tom Arnold has a witty cameo here, and Gabriel Luna doesn’t pretend to be more dangerous than he can be. In other words, you can discover this series and feel surprised, as in the case of the aesthetic forms of the presentation of the title of the series in subsequent episodes, as long as Schwarzenegger is allowed to function in a new form, and not still stuck in the old, full-length one from 30 years ago.

Łukasz Budnik

Lukasz Budnik

He loves both silent cinema and contemporary blockbusters based on comic books. He looks forward to watching movie with his growing son.

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