Arnold Schwarzenegger’s next two films are banking on the value of nostalgia, but it’s David Ayer’s Ten that truly shakes up the “Ahnuld formula” and could usher in a second career-wind for the aging screen badass/former governor/Mr. Universe.

Skip Woods’ screenplay takes inspiration from Agatha Christie’s murder-mystery novel “Ten Little Indians” (a.k.a. “And Then There Were None”), a story where ten characters are diabolically knocked off one-by-one by an unknown menace. The former mixes things up by making the victims “an elite DEA task force that takes on the world’s deadliest drug cartels” led by seasoned agent John ‘Breacher‘ Wharton (Schwarzenegger).

Open Road Films has settled on a January 24th, 2014 release date for Ten, which is a year after Schwarzenegger’s The Last Stand arrives. That decision makes sense, seeing how Arnold’s school of male-pattern badness (a term coined by Sly Stallone) isn’t as bankable nowadays, in our age of superhero movies and effects-laden blockbusters. Not to mention, it takes advantage of moviegoers hungering for something new, after a few months of Oscar-bait releases and prestigious end-of-year fare.

Ten sets the stage for conflict when Wharton and his team rob a powerful cartel’s safe house, under the cover of a high-stakes raid; the crooked ops get away clean, before someone (one of their own? Another enemy?) begins killing them, one at a time. Rounding out the cast are Sam Worthington (Wrath of the Titans), Terrence Howard (Red Tails), Josh Holloway (Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol), Joe Manganiello (Magic Mike), Mireille Enos (Gangster Squad), Dawn Olivieri (House of Lies), Harold Perrineau (Zero Dark Thirty), Malin Åkerman (Rock of Ages), Max Martini (Pacific Rim) and Olivia Williams as the cutthroat detective investigating the murders.

Check out a new image of Schwarzenegger in Ten:

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No doubt, Ten‘s Arnold looks intimidating with his forearm tattoo, silver stubble and police gear; in general, the brawny man’s appearance improves when he’s not attempting to cover his age (see: his silver locks and goatee in The Tomb). Ayer’s film also has the distinction of being the one upcoming Schwarzenegger action flick not described as an homage, throwback or another euphemism for “movie riding on Arnold’s glory days back in the 1980s and ’90s.”

Ayer and Woods have their share of hits (End of Watch, The A-Team) and misses (Street Kings, Hitman), so a memorable film isn’t exactly guaranteed. Similarly, an embittered and corrupt cop is unexplored character territory for Arnold, but it’s not what you could call a fresh idea; in fact, Ayer’s screenwriting career has thrived on exploiting that stereotype (Training Day, Dark Blue, etc.)

Nonetheless, we’re pleased with how Ten is shaping up… so far. How about you?

Ten (as mentioned before) hits theaters on January 24th, 2014.

Source: Open Road Films