Without question, Arnold Schwarzenegger is one of the biggest, most recognizable action stars in the history of Hollywood. He’s been the Terminator, Conan the Barbarian, he fought a Predator, and he was even the governor of California. He may not pop up on the screen as frequently as he used to, but his cultural relevancy has never once dissipated. Following in the footsteps of fellow veteran action stars such as Sylvester Stallone, Harrison Ford, and Jean-Claude Van Damme, Schwarzenegger is making the jump to the small screen with the Netflix original series FUBAR. Stemming from Nick Santora, the writer and executive producer of Scorpion and the Prime Video hit Reacher, the action-comedy series is the perfect amalgamation of what Schwarzenegger does best. He still gets to play action-star, but also is able to bring some of his distinct sense of humor that he brought to films like Twins and Kindergarten Cop.
Schwarzenegger stars as CIA operative Luke Brunner, who has long kept his career a secret from his family, including his extremely accomplished daughter Emma (Monica Barbaro). At the cusp of his retirement, Luke is looking to finally settle down, spend more time with his family, and hopefully win back the heart of his ex-wife Tally (Fabiana Udenio). Unfortunately, Luke has to hit pause on his retirement plans when he’s recruited for one last mission involving the dangerous arms dealer Boro (Gabriel Luna) and bringing an agent back to the States. Luke is flabbergasted when he learns that the agent he is tasked with returning home is, in fact, Emma — who, just like him, is keeping her career as a CIA agent a secret from everyone she loves. Luke and Emma reluctantly must join forces on this mission that puts everyone they love at risk, but first, they need to learn how to stop bickering and just get along.
‘FUBAR’ Is Entertaining Yet Inconsistent
FUBAR kicks off with an exciting action set piece in Antwerp, Belgium, as Luke confidently drives through alleyways, smokes comically large cigars, and faces off against a group of dangerous criminals, all while his longtime partner Barry (Milan Carter) speaks to him through an earpiece. It’s a quick and easy way to introduce audiences to the series before it dives into the drama between Luke and his family which starts to take up more and more of the series as it goes along. The series may be an entertaining one — it’s clearly trying to do something similar to True Lies, but while that film was expertly able to balance its comedy and action, FUBAR feels extremely inconsistent.
The episodes that focus more on Luke, Emma, and their CIA team on dangerous missions are when the show is at its best. Carter, Fortune Feimster, and Travis Van Winkle are all effective as the show’s comedic relief. Feimster, in particular, is a clear stand-out as Roo, a CIA operative who has always regarded Luke as a father figure. On the other hand, there are episodes that try to tackle more mature themes that, without getting into spoilers, are extremely out-of-place and don’t add as much emotion as they were clearly intended to. In fact, it’s these subplots that cause the series to lose focus on some of the more interesting storylines — particularly Luna’s Boro, who starts out as a compelling villain with an unpredictable nature and is nearly forgotten in the middle of the series’ run before being shoehorned back in later on.
This is not to say FUBAR is a bad show, but it is clearly having an identity crisis about whether it wants to be something along the lines of Jack Ryan, a workplace comedy set in the CIA, or a family drama. Some of the running jokes are amusing, especially a bit with Luke being extremely jealous of Tally’s seemingly pleasant new boyfriend Donnie (Andy Buckley). It is the cast that ultimately carries the series and makes it work, even when everything else isn’t clicking the way it should. Schwarzenegger does what he does best and, while one could argue he’s just playing himself or aiming to recapture what he did in Kindergarten Cop, you can’t argue that it’s not effective. Schwarzenegger’s charisma is just that infectious, and much like his modern equivalent Dwayne Johnson, he can have chemistry with just about anyone you put next to him.
Monica Barbaro Is a Standout in ‘FUBAR’
After her role in last summer’s blockbuster Top Gun: Maverick, Monica Barbaro continues her streak of starring alongside legendary action stars with her role as Emma. Even when some of the writing occasionally traps her in the most clichéd and uninteresting storylines, Barbaro still manages to power through. Her back-and-forth with Schwarzenegger never fails to amuse, and she has a clear knack for both the show’s espionage elements and the lighter moments.
Even putting aside the casting of Schwarzenegger, FUBAR was clearly an expensive series to produce. Much of the action is explosive and captures the high-octane thrills of a summer blockbuster you’d see on the big screen. Most of the plot twists and reveals can be seen from a mile away as this is about as generic a story as you can get, but viewers likely won’t mind that too much. Schwarzenegger’s name is what will drive up interest and, even in his lesser projects, he is always a memorable presence.
Some episodes are paced much better than others, and there are times when it seems that this might’ve been even more effective as a movie rather than a series. There is a lot of heart, and you do truly start to care about some of the characters, but there are other areas that will likely be forgotten about mere hours after you finish watching the series. FUBAR definitely plays it safe and doesn’t really have the addictive nature that The Night Agent had, but it also could have been far worse. There’s nothing offensively terrible about FUBAR; it just needed its story to be much more focused than what it ended up being. However, even at its weakest moments, it has heart, and Schwarzenegger and Barbaro make for a great leading duo.
FUBAR premieres on Netflix on May 25.