Friday, June 21, 2013

TV Review Friday - Banshee

Ok, so it's been a long time asince I've reviewed anything.  I've spent the last several posts being all serious and shit.  Time to take a break from all that.

And in that vein, it's time to reveiw the ULTIMATE GUILTY PLEASURE - Cinemax's original TV series Banshee - Season One.

A word of warning before I begin:

 Banshee is NSFW.  it's not suitabole for your buttoned down, prudish spouse who thinks Tennis is a four letter word.  It's also probably not suitable to watch with anyone unless they can be fully trusted with  not thinking you are a world class pervo for watchuing this show to begin with.  So yea, watch it at your own risk.  Seriously, I don't wanna hear from you that your wife now thinks you are a pervert or that your mom caught you watching and asked why you were on the Playboy channel.

Banshee is a Cinemax original series.  Usually, that would tell you anything you needed to know about the show.  After all, Cinemx, known as Skinemax by Those Who Know (a reference to their extensive late night soft core porn library) is the bottom feeder of the cable movie channels.  The red-headed step sister of HBO (Game of Thrones!!), Showtime (???!), Starz (the enjoyable Da Vinci's Demons) and, well, the Movie Channel.

I actually fell into this show after reading an article about top-10 new show "surprises". I had watched and enjoyed a few other shows on the list ( NBC's Hannibal and Da Vinci) so I figured I'd take a flier on it.

In a word - Wow.  Banshee is the new standard for guilty pleasure TV.  It's well written, well directed and the action scenes and sex scenes really crackle.  An added plus, the star of the show fights with a fighting style reminiscent of Krav Maga - Israeli developed self defense (which I actually learn once a week).  Go me. 

Another interesting note for J-Blog world.  The show was developed by Jonathan Tropper - who happens to be a modern orthodox Jew who has also writtena  few well selling novels and a graphic novel as well.  That's kinda cool guys, he's one of us!!  Go us!! Who cares if he's got a dirty mind?  He's famous!

Anywho, I will attempt and explain the premise of the show to you, but it's preposterous and I don't want to give away any secrets.  But in a nutshell:

This Guy (the incredibly hot Anthony Starr) gets out of prison after 15 years and locates his ex-girlfriend from that time - Anna (Ivana Milicevic), who now goes by the name Carrie Hopewell.  She's living in Banshee, PA, right in the heart of Amish country.  She's married and has kids. 

Guy goes into a bar where the new sherrif rolls in  - so new in fact, no one's ever seen him.  His name is Lucas Hood and he is being brought in from the "outside" because the town is so freaking corrupt, they needed to bring in a "ringer".  Sherrif  Hood is killed by two robbers, who are in turn killed by the Guy.  Guy, who wants to stay in town to deal with his ex-girlfriend, takes the identity of the dead sherrif and passes himself off as the dead Lucas Hood, with the help of the bartender, ex-boxer Sugar Bates, and his crossdressing gay computer hacker friend, Job. 

Turns out Hood and Anna stole 10 million dollars in diamonds from Mr. Rabbit a Russian Mobster from New York, who will stop at nothing to kill them both - not so much because he needs the money but for the damn principle of it.    So now Hood is dealing with Anna/Carrie, who wants no part of him, while trying to stay hidden from Mr. Rabbit and dealing with the local crime boss, ex-Amish Kai Proctor.

Sound ridiculous?  It is!  Does it work?  Totally.  The acting is tight, the characters are colorful and the action is brutal and intense.  The sex is totally believeable, quick paced and ruthless.  In other words, the anti-porn.

I'd run down the cast of characters, but Banshee's Wiki Page does it for me.  Thanks Wikipedia!  So instead I'll describe why I enjoy the show so much.

Forstarters, it came flying out of left field for me.  No fanfare, not everyone saying "oh you need to watch...." (Like when all you freaking after the fact geniuses tried to get me to watch Game of Thrones.  Um hello, I've read the books!! )  So it had the element of surprise - of totally sneaking up on you with no build-up.

Also, it found its stride relatively early.  It's really humming along by episode three, climaxing with an epic scene where Hood fight a mixed martial arts champ who rapes a bar waitress in his trailer.  It works in, to really great effect, a series of flashbacks explaining the back story with Hood, Anna and Mr. Rabbit (including a few interesting twists).

The acting is really good, as is the writing (as opposed to, say Cinemax's completely dreadful Strike Back which came highly recommended but absolutely blows).  There's a scene in the second episode where sherrif Hood, breaks into a museum in Lancaster to steal a painting (after all, it's hard to eat on a cop's salary) and gets trapped in a room with no way out.  He calls Job (a computer hacker extraordinaire, or course) and while he never says it, his face portrays that "I cannot go back to prison" feeling that would have lost its power if he had to say the words.

The flashbacks add real depth to the characters, really helps fill in an interesting back story.  Depth is also added to Kai Proctor's character - who in episodes one and 2 seems like your aveerage run-of-the-mill local thug but really gets a satisfying depth to him as well.

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