Only one Hollywood legend has the prowess to turn an action hero into a relatable family man: Arnold Schwarzenegger. Like his protagonist of CIA operative Luke Brunner in his lead character television debut, the new action adventure thriller series, FUBAR, the Emmy Award-winning actor is winding down his career. While both men aren’t working as frequently as they used to, their cultural relevancy in their respective careers have never once dissipated.
FUBAR follows Luke, whose family believes he’s a mild-mannered owner of a small fitness equipment store, as he’s set to retire from the CIA. However, he also has the tendency to miss important life events, which led to his divorce from his ex-wife, Tally (Fabiana Udenio). Despite the marriage not working out, Luke’s relationship with their two children, especially their daughter, Emma (Monica Barbaro), and son, Oscar (Devon Bostick), appears to remain mostly positive.
However, Luke has held a secret for decades; instead of being a fitness equipment store, he’s actually part of a team of highly skilled CIA operatives. The group includes tech expert Barry (Milan Carter), who Luke’s family thinks also works at the fitness store. The team also features more specialized agents Aldon (Travis Van Winkle) and Roo (Fortune Feimster), who work with Luke in the field.
Before taking the retirement he has longed for, during which he plans to win Tally back, Luke and his team are recruited for one last assignment: to stop Boro (Gabriel Luna), the leader of a South American separatist organization with ties to Luke’s past. When Luke’s team arrives in Guyana, where the dangerous arms dealer’s compound is located, the CIA operatives are surprised to learn the agency already has an undercover agent in the camp – Emma.
Luke and Emma are shocked to learn about the other’s career in the CIA, as their once seemingly perfect connection immediately becomes strained. Luke is also surprised to hear that his daughter actually resents the fact that he was always traveling and away from their family while she was growing up.
As a result, the duo have to somehow find a way to work together, while contending with the fact that their entire father-daughter relationship has been a lie. That on-the-job bonding experience isn’t made any easier whenever Luke mentions that he doesn’t support his daughter’s relationship with her boyfriend, Carter (Jay Baruchel). As a result, the extremely accomplished Emma must do whatever it takes to prove to her father that she can make her own decisions, both in her career and personal life.
FUBAR is a commendable effort on Schwarzegger’s part as he returns to the action genre in his first live-action project since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Last seen in the 2019 sci-fi action sequel, Terminator: Dark Fate, the Golden Globe-winning actor made a gallant effort to make his latest on-screen appearance mimic the emotionally-driven, death-defying characters from his past roles.
Unfortunately, Schwarzegger’s new Netflix show is largely driven by a plot that’s riddled with predictable clichés and shocking moments of cringe. The thriller’s first season was written in part by series creator-executive producer, Nick Santora, as well as several of his executive producers, including Adam Higgs and Scott Sullivan. The scribes surprisingly incorporated some jokes that may have been considered funny during the actor’s early career, but are now considered taboo.
FUBAR also relies too heavily on clichéd gags, surface level subplots interwoven amongst the ensemble cast of characters and predicable plot points that take away from its uniqueness. From Luke being extremely jealous of Tally’s new boyfriend, Donnie (Andy Buckley), to the CIA operative becoming too invested in Emma’s romantic relationship, the season’s minimal, overarching story feels underdeveloped throughout its eight, one-hour-long episodes.
The scribes who worked on building the characters and stories throughout the series’ first season did succeed in crafting the episodes that mainly focus on the dynamic between, and struggles of, Luke, Emma and their CIA team when they embark on dangerous missions. Schwarzenegger and Barbaro are the most memorable in their portrayals of their characters – a father and daughter who are so similar, including being independent and the lead operative on their missions, that they amp up the season’s overall conflict.
While some of the storylines involving Emma are clichéd, particularly those that involve her being so resentful to her father that she refuses to listen to his advice, Barbaro still makes her character feel complex and relatable. The actress effortlessly highlights how Emma wants to prove her strengths to not only her father but also their entire team, in any situation they find themselves in. That determination makes her one of the most endearing and enduring characters in the series.
The ever building, but at times repetitive, tension between Luke and Emma is effectively balanced with the natural humor between Carter, Feimster and Van Winkle, who serve as the show’s comedic relief. Feimster is a true stand-out as Roo, who isn’t afraid to share her thoughts on any topic through truly amusing humor at her co-workers’ expenses.
The series’ first season not only thrives on the ensemble cast’s natural chemistry and the characters’ impeccable humor, but also the tense action sequences crafted by its stunt coordinator, Jean-Francois Lachapelle. From Emma climbing on top of a speeding train to slow it down and prevent a nuclear explosion, to Barry jumping off a plane and then crawling through tunnels to break into a Turkish prison cell, the action sequences throughout the season are electrifying.
However, the settings in which the stunts take place are at times obviously shot against a green screen and not in the real locations. But the action sequences are still some of the most intense and memorable throughout the season.
Overall, Fubar is a tantalizing action adventure thriller television show that surprisingly thrives on its relatable message of the importance of supporting family in any situation, no matter how dire it may seem. While the story is driven by some predictable clichés, the chemistry between Schwarzenegger, Barbaro and their co-stars make up for the at-times overly packed storyline and create a generally enjoyable show.
All eight episodes of Fubar‘s first season are now streaming on Netflix.
Here’s the trailer of the film.