Aftermath

Review by Eve Watling

Directed by

Elliott Lester

Starring

Arnold Schwarzenegger Kevin Zegers Maggie Grace

Anticipation.

Arnie’s back in a Darren Aronofsky-produced drama-thriller.

Enjoyment.

Clunky dialogue and cliches abound in this tin-eared depiction of grief.

In Retrospect.

This silly film leaves an unpalatable aftertaste.

Arnie struggles with the simple dramatic demands of this insidiously nasty blue-collar revenge yarn.

What happens when an innocent mistake has devastating results? How can you nurture forgiveness? When is it right to take justice into your own hands? Aftermath, directed by Elliott Lester, follows one man’s struggle with tragedy, and tries to explore this fertile terrain of grief and redemption. It fails spectacularly.

The film opens with Roman (Arnold Schwarzenegger) eagerly awaiting the return of his wife and pregnant daughter on a flight from Kiev. He hangs bunting and spruces himself up in anticipation of their return. A shot of Schwarzenegger’s butt peeping out from behind a shower curtain provides the film’s sole, grisly thrill. Meanwhile, air traffic controller Jake (Scoot McNairy) is left alone mid-shift, and oversees a fatal mix-up.

The emotional tone is wonky from the start. At the airport, Roman passes another grief-stricken man and fixes him with a squint intended to be steely and prescient, but ends up making him look like a beefcake Larry David. Ignoring the proffered counselling sessions, he goes on his own solo mission to get an apology for the accident, his brow now fixed in a perplexed furrow.

Aftermath’s many face-palming moments complement Schwarzenegger’s unique acting style – he has a strangely childlike screen presence, despite his hulking, weather-beaten frame. It doesn’t help that he’s only ever given cliches to express his grief: booze is downed from brown paper bags; pin boards are covered with news clippings in dimly-lit rooms; graves are slept on.

The filmmaking-by-numbers continues through the hollow denouement and a not-so-shocking twist. It attempts to spell out a simple moral message – apologising is good – in huge letters, but even gets that confused. Ironically, considering Schwarzenegger’s high-profile beef with the incumbent US President, the film’s real message seems to be distinctly Trumpian. It suggests that the ordinary man must bypass the oppressive structures of bureaucracy to mete out what he feels in his heart to be true justice. If this involves extreme violence, so be it.

Schwarzenegger’s character is based on a very morally dubious, real-life Russian vigilante killer Vitaly Kaloyev, yet the actor is bizarrely framed as a blue-collar everyman with a heart of gold. Kaloyev is similarly treated as a folk hero by the creepy pro-Putin youth movement group Nashi, and is now a minister in the Russian government despite being a convicted murderer. Considering America’s current political climate, this gives Aftermath’s silliness a decidedly sinister edge.

Published 7 Apr 2017

Tags: Arnold Schwarzenegger Scoot McNairy

Anticipation.

Arnie’s back in a Darren Aronofsky-produced drama-thriller.

Enjoyment.

Clunky dialogue and cliches abound in this tin-eared depiction of grief.

In Retrospect.

This silly film leaves an unpalatable aftertaste.

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