Synopsis: Luke Brunner and his daughter Emma have lied to each other for years, neither knowing that the other is a CIA operative. Once they both learn the truth and are forced to work together to take down an international terrorist, they realize they know nothing about each other.
Stars: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Monica Barbaro, Milan Carter, Gabriel Luna, Fortune Feimster, Travis Van Winkle, Fabiana Udenio, Barbara Eve Harris, Aparna Brielle, Andy Buckley, Jay Baruchel
Director: Phil Abraham, Stephen Surjik, Steven Adelson, Holly Dale
Running Length: 8 Episodes (~55 minutes each)
TMMM Score: (8/10)
Review: Once the king of the summer blockbuster, it’s been a bit touch and go for Arnold Schwarzenegger over the past decade. Without the sizable hit the A-lister used to knock out on the regular in the late ’80s through to his semi-retirement when he became governor of California in 2003, the actor’s resume has been all over the map. Since his return to acting, it’s hard to predict where he’ll pivot next. One minute he’s trying out deeper acting chops in thrillers like 2015’s Maggie and 2017’s Aftermath, and the next, he’s returning to familiar oft-trod territory like 2019’s shoulda-been-bigger Terminator: Dark Fate.
Before falling victim to a similar trajectory as many of his peers from the same era (think Mel Gibson and Bruce Willis) and either going entirely into self-parody or cheapie shoot-em-ups filmed back-to-back-to-back in Slavic locales, Schwarzenegger has been thrown (or found) a lifeline in Nick Santora. A respected showrunner, writer, and executive producer on several crime series for network and basic cable, Santora is the creator of Schwarzenegger’s new 8-episode Netflix gamble FUBAR, and it’s a fast-moving, rollicking roll of the dice that has paid off handsomely for everyone involved.
Feeling at times like a reworking of True Lies, Schwarzenegger’s 1994 collaboration with James Cameron in that it juggles the personal and professional life of a government agent, FUBAR expands on that film’s scope to incorporate more characters, subplots, and mini adventures that stretch across eight hours of entertainment. I don’t often review series because there’s pressure in that long of a binge, but I burned through FUBAR with minimal interruptions (sleep, the need for sunlight), and I easily could have sat through another few hours with Schwarzenegger and this well-assembled team.
After years of dedicated service, undercover CIA agent Luke Brunner (Schwarzenegger, Terminator Genisys) is ready to hang up his spy gear and focus on winning back his ex-wife (Fabiana Udenio), who divorced him years earlier in part because of his lack of follow-through on promises to show up when his family needed him the most. His adult daughter Emma (Monica Barbaro, Top Gun: Maverick) is the apple of his eye, excelling at anything she sets her mind to and currently doing humanitarian work in underprivileged countries while her kind-hearted boyfriend (Jay Barucel, Blackberry) waits at home. Son Oscar (Devon Bostick, Words on Bathroom Walls) knows Emma is the son Luke always wanted but is trying to make something for himself with a app that is ahead of the curve.
Before Luke can officially sign out, he and his tech-savvy handler Barry (Milan Carter) are brought back in based on intel received that an agent stationed in Guyana is in grave danger of being found out. The agent is working with a rising extremist (Gabriel Luna, Bernie) Luke has a history with but never broke cover for, so it makes the most sense for him to go in and whisk the agent away before anyone is the wiser. Along with Barry and fellow operatives Aldon (Travis Van Winkle, Friday the 13th) and Roo (Fortune Feimster, Office Christmas Party), they high-tail it to South America, where Luke gets the surprise of his life.
If you’ve seen even one promo for FUBAR (which stands for, well, this), it’s no spoiler to reveal that the agent Luke has been sent to rescue is Emma, and the bulk of the series will revolve around the trust issues that spring up between father and daughter as they reconcile years of deception on both of their parts. Recruited out of college, Emma plays the nice and sweet girl for her family but is an expert agent that often exceeds her father’s capabilities. However, she doesn’t always possess his experience or expertise in diffusing a high-stakes situation. That friction yield results, though, and that, in turn, becomes a strong catalyst for agency leader Dot (Barbara Eve Harris, People Like Us) to insist the two work together to finish this last case.
Though written by a team of scribes and directed by several filmmakers, the eight episodes of FUBAR have a remarkably consistent tone throughout. It’s got all the makings of a summer blockbuster, just in an extended format that is only available through a delivery service like Netflix. Each episode ends on a solid cliffhanger, and while all are available on the same date, it would have been nice to see this series get the weekly release treatment that other streaming sites have been trying lately. I believe audiences would willingly chomp at the bit for the next episode to drop to see how things turn out.
Schwarzenegger the action star was always welcome, but I enjoyed it when the star would turn on his charming talent for wry comedy. He gets a fair shot at both and lands some terrific jokes. Yes, some of the action sequences feature an apparent stunt double, but you can’t fake quality line readings, and there were a few choice Schwarzenegger comebacks or deadpan reactions that I had to rewind to watch again. Surrounding himself with good comedians like Feimster (talk about knowing how to deliver a line!), Carter, Scott Thompson, Andy Buckley (Jurassic World), and Adam Pally (The To Do List) also help in that department.
FUBAR is a perfect series to binge over the Memorial Day weekend, a supercharged return to form for Schwarzenegger. By allowing the star to stretch his considerable muscles in a role that allows him time to play in the action sandbox but pauses long enough to provide him ample amounts of comedy, the creator and filmmakers have given viewers a surefire winner.