Arnold Schwarzenegger has played an action hero many times over the course of his film career, but he’s showing off a different side for his latest project, Maggie. The Terminator star is taking on his first real dramatic role in the indie zombie-themed flick, which recently premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival and is set to hit theaters in May.
Written by John Scott 3 and directed by Henry Hobson, Maggie takes place in the Midwest during the spread of a viral outbreak that has started turning people into zombies. The film stars Schwarzenegger as Wade Vogel, an even-tempered farmer, whose 16-year-old daughter Maggie (played by Abigail Breslin) is the only one in the family to be infected with the virus. After she runs away, he finds her consigned to a governmental quarantine ward, where zombies-in-waiting are executed once their transformation is complete. Unable to accept this fate for his daughter, Wade retrieves her from the authorities, determined that she live out her final human days in comfort.
As Maggie’s condition worsens, though, her neighbors and own stepmother start to question whether keeping her close is really the right course of action. Wade is then forced to face an impossible scenario: seeing his daughter resign to a hideous fate, or perhaps even worse, ending her life before she hurts him or his other family members.
While Hollywood has seemingly given the classic human versus zombie battle every kind of big-screen treatment possible, it’s clear that Maggie aims to put a new spin on the genre by emphasizing the theme of parental love and the lengths a father will go to for his daughter. Whether the film’s execution of this idea is successful is questionable (as evidenced by the mixed reviews it received after its Tribeca Film Festival debut in April), but one thing’s for sure: this is far from your typical Schwarzenegger movie.
So far, the film itself has warranted a varied critical response. Maggie is more of a melodrama than a horror movie, but reviewers seem split as to if this approach actually works. Some praise the film for giving a new take to an all-familiar genre, while others call the movie’s bleakness redundant and suffocating.
Still, it’s Schwarzenegger that’s getting the most attention. Maggie is a quieter indie than his typical blockbuster flicks, and the role of Wade marks a significant departure from the gun-slinging, punch-throwing, tough guy audiences are used to seeing him as. The film is an unexpected choice for the actor, one that allows him to show off his acting chops rather than his intimidating demeanor.
But while some moviegoers may have a hard time putting his action star persona aside, Schwarzenegger has already begun earning praise for delivering a surprisingly gentle performance. As Variety wrote, “Stoic, tight-jawed integrity comes naturally to the action icon, and he’s affectingly cast as a hulking protector figure compressing his own unruly emotions for the benefit of his family.” Forbes adds, “In the past, his size and star wattage somehow made it impossible to imagine him as a person who might live next door … but with age and experience he pulls it off rather effortlessly.”
With Schwarzenegger soon heading into his seventies, it only makes sense that he start pulling some focus away from action-oriented roles. Whether Maggie will truly mark the beginning of a new direction for his career remains to be seen, but viewers can expect the actor to show off some new facets in the upcoming movie.
Maggie will hit theaters in a limited release and on VOD on May 8.