I'm not trying to be a hero! I'M FIGHTING THE DRAGON!!

Maggie

tn_maggieMAGGIE did not go over well with the other three people in the theater. One made a big show of stomping out before the halfway mark. Two loudly yawned. One of those hatefully grunted “Fuck. Garbage!” to himself (or the back of my head) when the credits rolled.

As you know I have a policy of seeing every Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone or Jason Statham non-comedy theatrical release. This is an odd case because it also came out on V.O.D. and iTunes, and although I always prefer the theatrical experience I can see how this one will probly never play better with an audience, if there ever is one. It’s not just not a normal Arnold movie, and not just not a normal zombie movie, it’s also just very slow, quiet, uneventful and sad. It’s an indie drama, the gloomy kind, not the kind with all the sunny days and lens flares. It’s pretty much humorless and visually color-less. It’s not for everybody, or every mood. But I kinda liked it.
Schwarzenegger plays Wade Fogel (or Vogel I read, but I thought he said Fogel), just a humble small town guy, lives out on a farm, drives a rusty old pickup truck, is old friends with the local police and town doctor and everybody. I have no doubt that if push came to shove he could blow up a power plant and fake his death and go undercover in the mob like his character did in RAW DEAL, but that does not come up. He’s facing disease, a threat you can’t blow up or go undercover in. While his manliness does help sell a couple small scuffles this is not even kind of an action movie. THE ROVER is more of an action movie. This one is about his acting.

Shit is bad. “The necroambulance virus” has fucked up the world. There’s no power and farmers have been asked to burn their crops, but society has not completely collapsed. There are still hospitals and police and they work together to put people in quarantine when they get to a certain stage of the virus. As far as we see this is not a world where you go around scavenging – in fact, when Wade and his teenage daughter Maggie (Abigail Breslin… wait a minute, she already did ZOMBIELAND) stop at an unattended gas station he leaves money on the counter.

mp_maggie
Look man, the poster even has one of those film festival leaf logo things. They’re not trying to trick you into thinking it’s END OF DAYS.

It’s also not a world where you go around hunting zombies. When Wade has to deal with some everybody blames the family of the zombies for not putting them in the quarantine. But he doesn’t feel good about it.

So this is what the story is about: Maggie has the virus. She got bitten. I think it happened two weeks ago and then she got upset and ran away but now Wade has found her. Maybe she ran away and then got bitten while she was gone, but that would be weird. And through his connections he’s able to get her let out of the hospital to come live her last days with him on the farm.

Obviously he wants to spend time with his daughter, but also he has a responsibility to society not to help the virus spread further. There is some tension with Maggie’s stepmother Caroline (Joely Richardson), who is not as sure about this decision, but tries to put on a brave face. The poor lady has to deal with the grossest parts of the infection, and keeps winding up in situations where there’s infected blood all over the kitchen. That fucks up at least one meal, a sensitive area since Wade and Maggie make fun of her allegedly bad cooking (I wonder if Arnold suggested including that ’80s staple?).

It’s not the only cliche in the script. Of course we get to hear about her sainted late mother, and how there was this book she liked to read her, and that was where her name came from, and somehow it never came up before. Also, it needs to be said that trying to find different approaches to zombie movies is even more played out than just doing traditional zombie movies. This idea of families protecting their zombie relatives has already been explored in Romero’s SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD and at least two major The Walking Dead storylines (Herschel’s barn in season 2 and the Governor’s daughter in season whatever). And by the way, first time director Henry Hobson did the title design for The Walking Dead.

But I also think this finds a new angle on it, makes it more personal. Schwarzenegger is really good in it playing a very relatable guy, one who doesn’t talk alot or express his emotions openly but is clearly, stubbornly devoted to his loved ones. It’s a movie about facing the inevitable and trying not to dwell on it too much. He just wants to be around his daughter and have dinner and stuff. Also he cries in one part. And he has a cowlick sometimes. And no neck tattoo like in SABOTAGE.

I mean, it’s a movie about him being sad. He’s the Grievinator.

Could a “real” actor have done a better performance? I don’t really think so, but if they could this is a good trade off because honestly the novelty of seeing Schwarzenegger in a movie so different from what he normally does is the main attraction here. That can’t be denied. But there’s no shame in that.

Still, to me the more original and effective parts of the movie are when it’s more in Maggie’s point-of-view. The movie really picks up during Schwarzenegger’s longest absence from the movie, when Maggie goes to the beach at night with some friends. She wears sunglasses to hide her whitening pupils and stays quiet during a conversation about the ethics of avoiding quarantine. The boy she likes is infected, he sits by himself with spidery veins showing through his skin and tries to explain to his ignorant friend what it’s like to face that choice. Despite the sort-of-genre-trappings it really captures the feeling of summers with friends in those fleeting teenage years and the tragedy of kids who never get a chance to see more of life.

Even better are the heartbreaking scenes where she says goodbye to her little stepbrother or her best friend and both parties sort of pretend it’s not the last time. Those scenes got me, I have to admit.

I’m sure you could read it different ways, but to me this seems like a story about terminal illness and dying with dignity. I think that’s why it doesn’t really try to mine our fear of contagion. The kids hanging out on the beach and Caroline in the kitchen, they don’t really freak out about germs, even though they logically should. It’s more about the other costs of this type of tragedy. I can understand the pressure it puts on Caroline and on the marriage. And I can understand why Maggie and some of the other people don’t want to go die in the hospital where you’re supposed to die.

I mean this is not as good as COMMANDO in my opinion but it’s got its own thing going.

confidential to the guy behind me in the theater: do not watch that Charles Bronson movie THE INDIAN RUNNER

 

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

This entry was posted on Monday, May 11th, 2015 at 7:29 am and is filed under Drama, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

13 Responses to “Maggie”

  1. Nice review, Vern. I’m not against doing new spins on the zombie genre (I wish the regular zombie apocalypse movies would try experimenting with the “rules” more), but I don’t think I need this, as I got kind of a similar thing out of the BBC series IN THE FLESH. It was a great drama set AFTER a zombie apocalypse, where the Government actually managed to find a treatment for zombie-ism, and the still “living” infected are reintegrated into society with their personalities intact, having to keep up the treatment to stop from turning back into feral zombies again, and finding it difficult with the memories they can have of what they did and the prejudice they get from their community.

  2. One Guy From Andromeda

    May 11th, 2015 at 9:16 am

    Just to clear up why you heard Fogel when his name is Vogel – Vogel is german for ‘bird’ and Schwarzenegger would naturally pronounce that word the german way, which sounds like Fogel.

  3. Basically it comes down to “V” being more often pronounced like “F” in German.

  4. I think movies like Maggie are what give indie dramas a bad name.
    I was sitting there watching it with my dad, who grabbed the remote and started fast forwarding. “Who made this pile of crap?” He would keep asking.
    And I couldn’t argue with his feelings.

    The movie is designed to wear on you. It’s not fun, it’s not entertaining, and the color palette is pretty washed away so it might as well have been a black and white movie. It’s like whoever made this decided, we are not going to have any fun! Our characters are miserable so you will be, too!

    Yeah not a fan of this one!

  5. Who says movies have to be “fun” to be good? The Road is no fun at all and it’s terrific.

  6. Guys did you know Fury Road comes out THIS WEEK

  7. Grievinator. Slow clap.

  8. Does Arnold still do the German accent?

  9. His German accent is terrible.

    His Austrian one is pretty good, though.

  10. The Original Paul

    May 13th, 2015 at 10:18 am

    Man, I kinda want to see Arnie in a role like this. But nothing about it looks like it would make an even halfway-decent film. Glad it was ok for you Vern, but I won’t go out of my way to see this one.

  11. The Original Paul

    May 13th, 2015 at 7:09 pm

    Kev – I get your point. To use the most obvious example, KILL LIST was gritty, unpleasant, and one of the most viscerally satisfying experiences I think I’ve ever had with a film. And there’s no way I would ever describe that as “fun”.

    And Richard – I get your point also. I’ve had many, many problems with Indie dramas over the last couple of years, chiefly because most of them had loftier ambitions than to just “tell a good story” but no good plan on how to achieve those ambitions. When you see two films in a row with obvious talent behind them, but which exist only to make puerile points about the constant white noise we’re exposed to in everyday life or some such bullshit, I find it makes you a lot less keen to give those indie movise a chance. At least that’s been my experience.

  12. With your stallone policy youre going to need to see this one coming out in 2016 I guess.

    http://www.allgamesbeta.com/2015/05/ratchet-clank-ps4-reboot-delayed-to.html

  13. I really want to see this on the big screen but can’t find it anywhere. Might have to VOD. Funny thing is in looking for it I found a couple of theaters here playing ABSOLUTION. Never would’ve thought that in 2015 I’d have an easier time finding a new Seagal joint at the cinema than a Schwarzenegger one.

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