‘FUBAR’ (2023) Review: How Does Arnold’s Netflix Series Fare?


Netflix’s action-adventure comedy series FUBAR marks the entry of one of the best superstars in the movie industry into the world of web content. Arnold Schwarzenegger steps into the shoes of an aging CIA agent, Luke Brenner, who has to work one last mission before his planned retirement and, in turn, deal with a series of familial secrets and failures. As can be expected of the genre and specifically of the cast, FUBAR is packed with glamorous action sequences and spy-tech stuff, but it also equally focuses on elements of drama and comedy through its somewhat unconvincing screenplay. Overall, FUBAR is fine as a casual watch for fans of the genre or of Schwarzenegger, but its mostly basic plotline and dilemmas of good and bad make it just a usual action show.

The plot centers around Luke Brunner, whom we are introduced to in the middle of a high-stakes mission in Belgium, as the man steals some valuable diamonds from a shop on one of the best-guarded streets in the world. Luke is soon revealed to be a veteran CIA agent whose mission in Belgium is to track down the location of a notorious human trafficker who has been on the CIA’s radar for a long time. Aided by his younger friend and colleague, Barry, Luke successfully breaks into the jewelry store and gets hold of the valuable diamonds. These diamonds are then taken to a criminal operative, who knows Luke to be a diamond merchant, and given to him in exchange for the location of the CIA target. Although Luke’s identity as a spook is compromised towards the end, there is nothing that the seventy-five-year-old Schwarzenegger cannot do, and he safely makes it out of the place with heavy action. After successfully completing the task and reporting back to the CIA regional office in Armonk, New York, Luke handed in his retirement request. However, the authorities soon inform him of an urgent situation in which an operative planted inside the enemy camps in Guyana is at risk of being caught and executed, and they have also lost all communications with the agency. In his last ever mission, Luke is asked to go in and rescue this operative, but what he finds in Guyana is an unimaginable family secret for him.

The action and adventure parts of FUBAR are quite interesting, especially because of the way these sequences have been executed. It is clear from the very first episode that the series has received the highest production value from Netflix, and in that sense, it does not disappoint. The action scenes with big explosions and tight-knit choreography are perhaps the most enjoyable parts of the show. Added to that is, of course, Arnold Schwarzenegger and his almost instinctive ability to perform high-tension scenes. The fact that the man is seventy-five does perhaps sometimes show through the fact that many of his scenes are written in a slightly slower and less elaborate manner, but Schwarzenegger does not disappoint in the execution at all. Other performers, especially Monica Barbaro, have also been consistently thrilling in such scenes as the CIA team travels across various parts of the world in pursuit of an extremely dangerous and intelligent criminal who has developed a visionary weapon of mass destruction.

The drama in this series comes in two separate directions, with the first being a weak questioning of real good and bad. Like in many other instances in cinema before, the protagonist, Luke Brunner, is the man responsible for making the bad guy bad. When the antagonist, Boro (Gabriel Luna), was a young boy, Luke killed his father for having been a global terrorist. Boro, who had no understanding of any of this, grew up to idolize his father and walk in the same footsteps, even though he had received education at premiere institutions, all funded by Luke. This issue of whether Boro would have turned out to be who he is without Luke’s intervention is raised a number of times, but FUBAR only sticks to the conventional path in this regard. It is also not like the series tries to dig deep into the question either, and beyond a point, Luke just admits to having killed numerous humans throughout his career, but none of that bothers him because they were all baddies.

The second path, which is, in fact, a major element in the show, is family drama. Despite being immensely successful in his professional field, Luke has majorly struggled in his role as a family man. His beloved wife, Tally, had been let down multiple times before she divorced Luke fifteen years ago. Ever since then, the man has been trying even more to get her love and trust back, but that has not been helping either. There is a new man in Tally’s life, Donnie, and Luke just cannot accept this whole situation, even recruiting his CIA aides to spy on the lover. His son Oscar has been trying to start his own business and app, and he desperately wants Luke to invest in it. But the man is more of an old-school guy, not having any faith in new-age apps, and so are his assessments of individuals. Luke does not like his daughter Emma’s boyfriend, Carter, because of his slightly docile personality, whereas he is very proud of Emma’s profession in a water engineering company. All of this takes on an added spin when Luke finds out the family secret in Guyana, and the show continues to focus on this till the very end. However, it is in this regard that FUBAR falters most, as the characters and their motivations become ultimately unconvincing and shallower than intended.

The saving grace, perhaps, is that the series does not take itself too seriously, even in the most tense scenarios, and maintains an air of comedy all throughout. One of the CIA agents, Aldon, complains about an old obsessive lover creating trouble, but then the lover randomly appears only to help him out of a sticky situation. In another instance, two other agents end up killing a man different from their supposed target and have to then cover up for some time using the silliest techniques. There is even a level of absurdity at times, and it works in favor of the show, in my personal opinion.

The lack of dramatic depth, especially in the familial ties, and the majorly convenient changes in the characters’ motivations restrict the series to mediocrity. In action-adventure regard, it is far better, even though there is nothing new or remarkable to find. The performances can be unconvincing in scenes where bonds between family members are discussed, but they are perhaps compensated through the high-fueled fight sequences. Overall, FUBAR is slightly better than average only because of the charms of its characters, and it could have been better by prioritizing its strong points.

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Sourya Sur Roy
Sourya Sur Roy
Sourya keeps an avid interest in all sorts of films, history, sports, videogames and everything related to New Media. Holding a Master of Arts degree in Film Studies, he is currently working as a teacher of Film Studies at a private school and also remotely as a Research Assistant and Translator on a postdoctoral project at UdK Berlin.

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