2015 / Director. Henry Dobson.
Review by Shaun Crawford.
They all do it eventually. Jumping off buildings and shooting people in the face gets old, the body can't keep up and like an elite sportsman moving into commentary so too do the action stars of the 80s move into serious drama.
So, then, the question on everyone's lips is, how does Schwarzenegger fare? Does he have the chops?
In MAGGIE he plays Wade Vogel, devoted family man and father to runaway teen, Maggie (Abigail Breslin). Trouble is, America has been decimated by an outbreak of a disease that slowly turns those infected into cannibalistic, brain-chomping zombies. After a two week search Maggie turns up in a hospital, infected with the virus and Wade brings her home to stay by he side as she slowly slips away.
Much like Spielberg's WAR OF THE WORLDS, MAGGIE takes a huge subject (the end of civilisation, forchristsake) and personalises it by boiling it down to one family's struggle. The Vogels live a life of almost complete isolation and while they share the problems of the world, their problems are their burden to bare.
First time feature director Henry Hobson has crafted a dense, tabacco-stained and textured world, one on the edge of destruction that's barely clinging on to the humanity it has left - much like the Vogels. It's a stark film that starts with a sombre tone and only gets darker. Even the moments of levity, when they do come, are undermined by an overwhelming sense of impending doom and the increasingly macabre behavior of Maggie. Hobson, with his limited budget, has cleverly managed to conjour a world on the brink with the occasion shot of burning, arid farmlands and perpetually stormy, grey skies.
So, to answer the burning question, 'how does Arnie do'? The answer is 'surprisingly well'. His portrayal of Wade is one of genuine love and adoration for his daughter and of complete vulnerability. He's not perfect, however. Once or twice the material means he over-stretches his talents but it's good to see him succeed more than he fails. Hobson, wisely, never harks back to his action-star repertoire even when Arnold is brandishing a shotgun for self-defence. Wade is not a hero, he's scared and he's lost and Schwarzenegger has his mallet-sized hands all over it. There's no cheeky winks to the viewer, no quips. He has a genuine connection with the audience, and that is more that can be said for a lot of his contemporaries.
Breslin and Joely Richardson round out the supporting cast. Breslin turns on the charm for the infected Maggie, easily flitting between regular girl to terrified teenager knocking on the door of a horrendous death. Richardson has less room to move as the terrified step-mother doing what she can for Maggie through a constant fear and wariness of the condition - the Yin to Wade's fiercely protective Yang.
Maggie will get viewers in purely on curiosity factor alone but arguably its bulky leading man is more successful in drama than he was in comedy. The film's not perfect and you'll be left feeling robbed of a decent ending, which is a shame given the groundwork that came before it, but it's perhaps still worth a butchers to satisfy that inquisitive part of your noodle.
We'll have to wait and see what Arnie's next step will be but if Maggie is an indicator of potential then bring it on.