Strike Back (Season 1): When he takes the blame for a failed mission, Spec Ops soldier John Porter is kicked out of the SAS, but re-hired seven years later to catch a familiar face. After the briefest of setups Strike Back is pretty much just action-action-action with the odd scrap of plot – it has to be one of the most action-centric, kick ass, blood splattering, neck-snapping, omni-exploding pieces of TV badassery out there. Richard Armitage (as John Porter) holds his own and really makes the show, as the central Damaged Hero, and total badass – channeling guys like Rambo & Mclean – and could probably take on Jack Bauer in a fight; not even kidding! As the series sprints forward, the main backstory becomes more intricate, and interlinked with the current missions. The episodes which are decadently overflowing with set-pieces, deception, betrayal, action, adrenalin and politics – are all surprisingly believable, at least until the Scottish hacker pops up in the final mission. All-in-all Strike Back is like a mythical unicorn hiding in the TV Schedule: an action-heavy, huge-budget, Movie-styled TV show consisting of 3 interlinked adrenaline-soaked 90-minute episodes that truly raise the action bar. Action fans rejoice!
Dante 01: psychiatric research centre on the edge of the galaxy – Dante 01 – gets a new, unknown, patient,with some strange powers. So technically this is a Sci-Fi film, but for all intents and purposes it’s a glorified stoner flick – Philosophy 101, religion, mythology and lots of trippy visuals; like an unexplained freaky x-ray scan-o-vision. The leading actor had the most monotonous role ever; wriggle on floor, stagger through corridor, puke everywhere, pretend to be eating CGI space octopi. The film just goes through several boring cycles of the same CGI graphics and infection reactions, and nothing’s really developed. Weirder still, everyone was inexplicably a skin-head, which meant that in the low light it was ridiculously difficult to tell who was who quickly. Then at the end the films bursts into a ridiculous ‘2001‘ moment, which is just pitiful. I’ve NEVER been this bored or unimpressed by a Sci-Fi film, ever (Although Sci-fi is really just a guise to hammer home the “science can’t explain religion, lol” super-plot. God-awful. Not so much ‘Dante 01‘ as it is ‘Dante – #2‘
Henry’s Crime: Henry takes the blame for a robbery he knew nothing about, does three years in prison, and upon release hatches a plan to actually rob the bank: he’s done the time, why not commit the crime? My biggest issue with this is that, as a protagonist, Henry is one of the most uninteresting characters to lead a film – the personification of tedium and aimless. Vera Farmiga – playing an unpolished actress – does a really good job, where as Reeves has had a whole career being 2nd rate and seeing him ‘poorly read’ from a play-script actually blew up my irony-o-meter. James Caan steals the show as the loveable ‘confidence man’ – easily with the best character, best lines and all-round best performance. For an indie-rom-com-robbery-caper there were only 2-3 laughs, and it just felt like a really, really basic ‘bank job’ that wanted to be well grounded [like The Lookout] but was heavily laced with absurdity. Also, of all the plays to use in this type of film a high-brow Chekhov tragedy just didn’t fit the bill – and all the readings/scenes from that script really brought the tone down. There are a some elements that are good ideas; such as the prisoner that doesn’t want to leave prison, unlikely friendships, a bank robber being forced to take up acting, and changing the ending of an established play – however, the final scenes are a cinematic train wreck that you have to watch through your fingers. It’s all somewhat unfortunate because concept is great, and with this cast it definitely looks worth a punt, but having seen the film I realise why the distributors buried it in a busy month.