FUBAR Review

Luke Brunner (Schwarzenegger) is a CIA operative, his true identity hidden from his family for years. He soon discovers his daughter Emma (Barbaro) is also a secret spook. Father and daughter are forced to reluctantly work together to bring down international terrorist Boro (Luna).

by John Nugent |
Published on

Streaming on: Netflix

Episodes viewed: 8 of 8

“Whatsa matter?” Arnold Schwarzenegger famously goaded in 1987’s Predator. “The CIA got you pushing too many pencils?” Well, as they say, you either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the pencil-pusher. In FUBAR, Arnie is CIA operative Luke Brunner, and while not quite a full-blown desk-jockey, you can’t help but wish he was back in that jungle.

The Austrian Oak has a few more rings on the trunk these days, and still looks damn good in sunglasses, but this — his first major TV role, if you don’t count The New Celebrity Apprentice — misunderstands the appeal of the great man. It has only a meme-level comprehension of his star power. Yes, he smokes a cigar, rides a motorbike and says, “Choppa!” But is that the best you’ve got?


Arnie is a unique and singular icon, and like all national treasures, needs to be treated with care. With its family-man-living-a-secret-agent-life premise, FUBAR tries in vain to summon the spirit of True Lies; it takes the steady hand of someone like James Cameron to find that delicate tone. Brunner is presented as both genius-level über-spy and a cosy dad figure, Jason Bourne crossed with Phil Dunphy; unlike True Lies, it proves an awkward fit here. What you really want to see him doing — big, lumbering, brawns-over-brains badass action — is vanishingly thin on the ground.

It’s in the comedy side of the ‘action-comedy’ equation that FUBAR really falters.

Instead, he’s left to unfurl a rather boring conspiracy, taking down bog-standard baddie Boro (fellow Terminator Gabriel Luna) with some family dynamics clumsily woven in. Like a lot of TV shows these days, this is a film-length story expanded to a television-length running time, padded with superfluous soapy overplotting: Brunner wants to win back his ex-wife; his daughter and fellow spy Emma (Top Gun: Maverick’s Monica Barbaro) is struggling with her work/life balance; Brunner’s ex-wife (Fabiana Udenio) is, erm, opening her own fitness supply store. Etc.

Brunner’s array of comic-relief sidekicks at the CIA, meanwhile, seem to imply the agency is full of wisecracking goofballs engaging in charming workplace romances, rather than ultra-serious spooks with a penchant for regime change. It’s in the comedy side of the ‘action-comedy’ equation that FUBAR really falters, its half-written one-liners teeth-pullingly, waterboardingly bad. They aim for Hawkeye from M*A*S*H and barely muster Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory. There are cringingly crude jokes (“Just thinking about firing one of those off gives me a gusher!”); joke formats as outdated as the references (“Haven’t seen a climax this lame since The Sixth Sense!”); or comebacks so clichéd they should constitute a comedic war crime (“That’s what she said!”).

The only thing keeping FUBAR from living up to its own acronym is Arnie himself. His enormous rectangular frame still exudes some mysterious magic. In the moments where he needs to eat the proverbial Green Berets for breakfast, he still convinces. FUBAR might not herald a new Arnaissance, but it’s reassuring to know that he will, as he is fond of reminding us, be back.

Arnie’s first live-action TV series looks to ape True Lies but lands closer to Jingle All The Way — if Jingle All The Way was eight hours long. A genuine slog to get through.
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