FUBAR review: Arnie’s back, but not in the way we hoped

Arnold Schwarzenegger as Luke Brunner in FUBARNetflix

FUBAR promised so much: a new action-comedy based on True Lies, with Arnold Schwarzenegger front and center in his first major scripted TV role. Unfortunately, the Netflix series fails to deliver, instead offering a paint-by-numbers story with one-note characters that piles on the one-liners like a 12-gauge shotgun. Arnie’s back, but not in the way we’d hoped. 

Arnie’s legacy lies in his ability to defy traditional definitions of good acting, with his roles rarely demanding profound, emotional depth. Instead, the ​​Austrian Oak shines in physically intense scenes, commanding presence and a renowned capacity to deliver memorable one-liners now ingrained in pop culture. “I’ll be back” and “Hasta la vista, baby” from the Terminator movies and “Get to the chopper!” in Predator are arguably the most famous examples – and let’s not forget Arnie’s love for stogies. 

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Then there’s the action, from his bicep-flexing introduction in Conan the Barbarian to the motorcycle chase scene in Terminator 2. We also miss the days when practical effects were favored over CGI – the way Arnie leaned into the silliness of Total Recall is one of many reasons it remains a sci-fi action classic. 

So, it’s no surprise the world was excited upon the news that his latest project is a series with Netflix. Especially given the show, titled FUBAR, is his first major TV role, not to mention the fact that it’s based on James Cameron’s 1994 classic True Lies. And, to coincide with the release of the show, Netflix announced the Hollywood heavyweight as its new Chief Action Officer, where he’ll be putting his experiences to good use to help deliver the “biggest and best” from the genre. With all of these factors combined, FUBAR has got to be a hit, right? Right?

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FUBAR should have been a movie

Much like True Lies, FUBAR’s main premise centers on a CIA agent who’s living a double life, pretending to his loved ones he’s nothing more than a dull and overworked salesman. The series starts with Arnie’s Luke Brunner as he prepares for his retirement – and to win back his ex-wife Tally (Fabiana Udenio). But just as he’s ready to put the badge down, he’s called in for one last mission: to save a fellow operative from Boro, the son of a terrorist Luke killed decades ago. 

Here’s the kicker: said operative is actually Luke’s seemingly sweet daughter, Emma (Monica Barbaro). Yes, she’s been living a double life too. The series spends much of its attention on the dynamic between the pair as they attempt to fix their broken relationship. Luke regrets spending too much time away from his family, and Emma resents him for his absence – which is a bit rich coming from someone who’s doing the exact same thing to her adorable boyfriend, Carter (Jay Baruchel).  

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Once Emma is retrieved, what ensues over the following seven episodes is a globe-trotting mission to stop Boro from carrying on his evil father’s work and creating nuclear weapons to flog to terrorists. And here comes the biggest problem with FUBAR: it should have been a movie. The title itself is the famous acronym for “f*cked up beyond all recognition,” but the stakes are never high enough to live up to its namesake. FUBAR is a paint-by-numbers action-comedy, taking the True Lies plot and offering nothing much new aside from cramming even more one-liners and tired plot points. 

One note characters and relentless one-liners

It would have been fine if character development had been considered. But creator Nick Santora tries so painfully hard to make people laugh, not one of the characters feels like an actual person, but rather a vehicle to deliver relentless, generic gags. This doesn’t bode well when so much of the time is spent on various relationships, romantic and familial. The interactions feel empty and predictable, leaving nothing to root for.

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Even in these instances, the saving grace is often the villain, who provides the opportunity for a bit of menace and charisma to shine through. Unfortunately, Gabriel Luna’s Boro is about as edgy as a circle. Then there are Luke’s CIA colleagues, who do little but try and fail to deliver laughs, all the while upholding clichés – at one point, Fortune Feimster’s Roo says: “I drive a Subaru because I’m gay.” And there’s even a “That’s what she said” thrown in for good measure. The computer wizard in this story is Milan Carter’s Barry, who is arguably the most likable character, although even he can’t say one sentence without uttering some sort of quip while reminding us that he’s a comic book fan. 

Milan Carter as Barry Putt, Monica Barbaro as Emma Brunner, Arnold Schwarzenegger as Luke Brunner in FUBARNetflix
Barry, Emma, and Luke in FUBAR

As for the action, remember at the end of True Lies, when Arnie beats up the bad guy while clinging to his daughter and flying a fighter jet? FUBAR disappointingly doesn’t deliver on any of these heart-thumping thrills, with poorly delivered CGI replacing high-stakes sequences. 

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The show does have its moments, however – there are a couple of surprisingly gory displays, as well as gunfights aplenty, with Arnie proving he still knows how to dominate these scenes. What’s more, anyone who’s grown up with the Governator as their idol will enjoy the fan service, including a scene in which we get to see him in his throat-screaming element as he shouts “chopper” and another of him puffing one of his famous stogies. 

FUBAR review score: 2/5

FUBAR should have been a movie, but even if it had, it would need to spend more time on creating characters and a narrative with something more to give than tropes done better so many times before. Arnie stans might want to give it a go for the fan service, but just don’t expect anything particularly exciting or new. If you want to see the Governator as a CIA agent leading a double life, best stick with True Lies. 

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FUBAR is available to stream on Netflix now. Find out more about how to watch it here, and check out our other Netflix guides below:

The Night Agent Season 2 | The Gentlemen | Will there be Firefly Lane Season 3? | Sex Education Season 4 | Beef Season 2 | Monster Season 2 | Will there be Ginny and Georgia Season 3? | Black Mirror Season 6 | All the Light We Cannot See | Stranger Things Season 5 | The Witcher Season 3 | Chicken Run 2 | Heartstopper Season 2 | Florida Man Season 2 | Obsession Season 2 | The Sandman Season 2

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