Michael Mann

July 12, 2013

(Turn on the TV) The Bridge

AGAIN

The Bridge – Again

FX is known for putting out fantastic programming.  Just look at the catalog; “The Shield,” “Justified,” “American Horror Story,” “Louie,” and “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.” Of course I’m missing a few, including “Archer” but you look at their lineup either currently or in the past, and you see the quality.  This brings me to FX’s newest show “The Bridge” a look at crime on the border of Texas and Mexico.  After watching the pilot I was left thinking, “again?”

“The Bridge” is based on the Swedish TV series “Bron” which deals with crime on the Denmark-Sweden border.  Who’d of thought; crime in Denmark and and Sweden, I thought that only happened in Steig Larsson novels.  In this American version, two cops, Diane Kruger, who is ironically German, and Demian Bichir, who is in fact Mexican, so that helps, both find a body on the US-Mexico border.  It’s discovered that the body was cut in half and comprised of two different bodies.  Intrigued?

Moving from the plot aspects to the character aspects for a second, I just want to comment on the character Sonya Cross, or North, depending where you read her character’s name from.  Now this is the third show in the past year where the creators decided to go the now-cliched detective route, namely giving the main detective symptoms of Aspergers.  We’ve had “Sherlock” on the BBC, “Hannibal” on NBC, and now “The Bridge” on FX.  There used to be an age where cops or detectives had the cliche of having a gruff exterior with a soft interior, usually involving “a past event” that shaped their character, but now we are stuck with detectives and cops who have some sort of autism.  It was cute the first time, but personally I think it’s time find a new cliche.

Being that the pilot was an “extended pilot” (clocking in at just over 90 minutes as opposed to your standard 60 minute program) we get some extra time with our main characters and our “killer.”  Yet, I didn’t really feel any type of investment with either North or her Mexican counterpart, Marco Ruiz.  The stakes seem higher for Ruiz who is balancing both personal and professional business in one of the most corrupt cities in Mexico, whereas the only thing we know about North is that she is a little off.

Stylistically, if you took the film “Savages” and gave it the Michael Mann treatment, that’s exactly how “The Bridge” looks, which means it looks great.  I would even say that it even has a little “No Country For Old Man” vibe with the look and feel of the desert landscapes.  They always say imitation is the highest form of flattery.

Overall, “The Bridge” has potential, but in a TV landscape with every cop and procedural show trying to one-up the other when it comes to violence, gory, and autistic detectives, where does this show fit?  Being it’s on FX, the pedigree is there, but it’s where they decide to go with the characters that really matters.  If I want to see gory murders and detectives with problems I’ll stick with “Hannibal.”

Fun Fact:  According to The International Boundary and Water Commission, the US-Mexico border is approximately 1.954 miles long.

September 29, 2012

Pusher

REMINISCENT

I’m a child of the 80s.  I grew up with Michael Mann’s Miami Vice.  I watched movies like Scarface and To Live And Die In LA religiously.  I lived through the end of the Cocaine Cowboys era.  I called it the time of “colorful crime“.  Pink and green neon lights shining over crooked drug deals in night club parking lots.  Rhythmic synthesizer beats blaring out of passing car speakers.  That stuff just screams 80s.  Its why I love the film Drive.  It speaks to my youth.  Director Nicolas Winding Refn shot it like a film that could slide right into that era or universe.  Some people didn’t understand or appreciate its minimalistic nature and sudden brutal violence.   But it was a depiction and/or nod to the lifestyle of that time more than an intricately plotted crime drama.  A loner trying to make better of himself is unwittingly forced into a situation that brings it all down.  A simple formula that fits perfectly with 80s sheik.  After Drive, Refn produced a remake of his first film with that same formula and style.  That film is Pusher.

Pusher comes to us from Spanish director Luis Prieto.  Set in England, Pusher tells us the story of Frank.  A loner trying to make better of himself but is unwittingly forced into a situation that brings it all down.  See?  From the opening sequence you can feel the British crime vibe as Guy Ritchie like title cards flash over character’s faces.  British crime films like this are a little more frenetically paced than films like…Heat lets say.  Pusher, however, still feels very REMINISCENT of the 80s style.  The neon is there.  The rhythmic synthesizer beats are there.  The amazingly photographed night shots are there.  And boy, are the crooked drug deals there.

Prieto’s visual style does tend to teeter back and forth between 80s art piece and British gangster film.  From Manhunter to Long Good Friday and back again.  However, when he sticks to the neon and naked city aspects, the film really sets itself apart.  Less so than Refn’s original but still enough for you to take notice. 

Whenever Brad Pitt or George Clooney or Tom Cruise play a role, you have the sense that no matter what’s happening, they’ll be okay.  You don’t really worry for their characters the way you should.  They just present themselves as the inevitable winner in most of their films.  That works out well when they aren’t, but it only serves as a benefit for the end of that film.  You never experience the growing peril or dread fully.  In Pusher, Richard Coyle plays Frank with a rich and realistic feel.  He’s not a stereotypical hero.  He’s not amazingly smart or an amazing fighter or a nut case.  He’s real.  This makes you concerned for his safety and feel his desperation more than if they’d gone with a more recognizable star. 

Pusher is not groundbreaking or a classic.  However, it is a very visually interesting watch and does hold itself up as a worthy remake.  Blag some gear….give it a propah butcher’s….then tell me I’m Pete Tong.

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