Aftermath is a really odd film, something that was very much made for the “cheap DVDs” shelf at the supermarket. It has the massive movie star Arnold Schwarzenegger slumming it in a what is basically an indie drama. The fact that Arnie is in it means that some people will pick it up on his name alone, guaranteeing at least some sales.
Arnie plays a grieving husband and father. After his family dies in a mid-air collision, he is seeking answers, and he soon lays all the blame on air traffic controller Jake (Scott McNairy). Jake is suffering his own mental health issues, which are more than understandable given the situation. Soon Arnie may take the law into his own hands to get the closure he desperately craves. It’s “based on a true story,” but the real events happened in Germany and the model for Arnie’s character was Russian. The real life basis, Vitaly Kaloyev, says the film’s depiction of the air traffic controller isn’t remotely close to the real-life man.
The whole thing is kind of schizophrenic: it wants to be this interesting indie drama about grief, but given it has Arnie in the lead, it needs to play to his strengths. He actually pulls off the emotional stuff pretty well, and now that he is in the geriatric stage of his career, he will probably do more work of this ilk. At the end of the day, however, it is a really a revenge flick.
Besides Schwarzenegger, the film is helped by a solid supporting cast. McNairy is such a talented actor that he really brings a believability to every role he plays. Martin Donovan, an actor I’ve liked ever since I first watched the early Hal Hartley films, has a small role, but he is always a pleasure on screen and desperately needs a comeback. Maggie Grace is effective as Jake’s long-suffering wife.
Aftermath doesn’t completely add up, despite two strong core performances from Schwarzenegger and McNairy. It kind of feels like there might be a longer version out there, because it’s tightly edited to fit the 90-minute mark that is so very digestible on video streaming platforms and television. Weirdly enough, it was written by Javier Gullón, who also wrote the incredibly challenging and brilliant Enemy, but none of that film’s weirdness is on show here. It’s worth checking out, but it will be in the bargain bins sooner rather than later.