It’s great to see Arnold Schwarzenegger back in movies. It’s even better to see he’s willing to step out of his comfort zone and assume different roles. On the face of it Maggie, a zombie horror, shouldn’t be too much of a change. But this isn’t a rehashed action flick for the goth generation. At its heart it’s a drama. But does it work?
In the movie’s early sequence we see Arnie bash a zombie to death, at this point you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s a disguised action flick. That soon peters out and director Henry Hobson enters indie flick territory.
It gives the story a chance for scene setting. Zombies are actually infected with the necroambulist virus. It gives those unfortunate enough to have it a period of grace. There’s no bite from the undead and quick trip to zombieville. In fact, the zombies are kind of portrayed as crazy, mindless cannibals. That are, well, just like zombies.
Arnie knows his daughter, the title of the movie, played by Abigail Breslin, is on borrowed time. So he intends to saviour every last moment. Unfortunately for the viewer, the director also wants to saviour every last moment. And so he drags out her final days as if we are living them with her. Those days feel like years.
Arnie has the option of handing her over when the time is drawing close, placing someone in quarantine removes the danger they possess. Or he can finish the job himself. Obviously neither of these appeal to the devoted father.
What follows is his desire to hang on to someone that is inevitably going to die. These moments are touching, and really well acted by the former Mr Universe. Expressing the sort of range he’ll need now his action days are (should) be nearing their end.
Breslin for her part is faultless. She knows she’s doomed and his horrified when stepmother Joey Richardson isn’t cooking downstairs but she smells food. It’s the stepmother that smells like fresh meat.
There’s a scene with a former crush of sorts that helps fill in some of the backstory around the virus and why the camps are so bad but by this point you’re hoping Arnie gets the job done and puts Maggie to rest.
Indie films are great and give makers a chance to explore outside of mainstream requirements. Here, we had a great concept and fine performances. But a film about dying needed an injection of life. Arnie will be back, hopefully next time the story will be better.