4/16/14

From Dusk 'til Dawn: The Series 1 & 2: These Geckos Will Not Help YouSave 15%

When I heard that Robert Rodriguez was going to bring From Dusk 'till Dawn, the film he co-directed with Quentin Tarantino, to his new El Ray network as a series, I was skeptical. Now, after two episodes, which clock in at just under the running time of the original film, I feel cautiously skeptical. I still can't upgrade it to any level of optimism, but there are moments and performances that almost work in this expansion of the crime story/vampire tale.

For those familiar with the film, and I am going to somewhat assume for the purposes of this series that most of you are, the first episode covered mainly the robbery at the liquor store by Seth and Richie Gecko (D.J. Cotrona and Zane Holtz), the introduction of Texas Ranger Earl McGraw (Don Johnson) and his partner Freddy Gonzalez (Jesse Garcia), and a hint of supernatural via some voices in Richie's head and a couple ugly boogers that appeared to him. So basically, with a few frills and additions, it covered the first fifteen or twenty minutes of the movie. 

The first problem is that Cotrona and Holtz, while seeming affable and charismatic enough, are poor replacements for the charm of George Clooney and the manic twitchiness of Tarantino who took on the roles in the film version. Holtz seemed especially stiff when compared to Quentin, and he was easily the weakest part of the show. The best part, by far, was Don Johnson as Earl McGraw, the Texas Ranger played by Michael Parks in the movie as well as in the Kill Bill films. The Miami Vice veteran has grown quite grizzled as he has aged, and I'd love to see him get into more genre roles like this which hearkens back to his top notch performances in films like The Hot Spot.

Overall, the first episode acted as a decent introduction to the characters, but there wasn't enough expanded material to make this feel like its own thing. It felt more like a test run for the movie and not a series that should be doing what it can to make me forget the film. The only parts that I really enjoyed were subtle tweaks on the events chronicled in FDTD:TMP, and those were few and far between. After the first episode, I vowed to only hang out for one more episode if it was any better. 

The second episode serves to introduce us to the former Reverend Jacob Fuller (Robert Patrick) and his family, his daughter Kate (Madison Davenport) and adopted son Scott (Brandon Soo Hoo), as they are traveling to Mexico in the wake of Kate's mother's untimely death. Meanwhile, the Geckos are hitting the road, but they're also flashing back, giving us a look at the Abilene bank robbery where Seth first notices the strange behavior in Richie. Ranger Gonzalez, taken off the case, finds a way to get a lead, and we get our first look at a vampire when Carlos Madrigal (Wilmer Valderrama), who has hired Los Hermanos Gecko to do a mysterious job (without Seth knowing he is a bloodsucker), appears on the scene to sink his teeth into some fresh meat.  

When the second episode started and I was right in the RV with Jacob Fuller and family, I started to wonder if From Dusk 'til Dawn: The Series was simply going to be a plodding remake of the movie for the most part. Thankfully, the second episode already dives off the main story arc of the film, and with the addition of a few new characters (Ranger Gonzalez, Carlos, Kate's boyfriend, etc.), I feel like I'm starting to see how they could expand on a story whose destination seems already laid down but still make it an exciting trip getting there. The performances, even that of Zane Holtz as Richie, were greatly improved from the pilot episode, and I think this might also be due to the characters not being stuck in a slow remake of the film.

The two large original pieces of action in the episode, the bank robbery and Carlos stalking his prey, fit in seamlessly with scenes lifted from the film. However, I did feel like there were less of them, and Jacob's crisis of faith is revealed in an entirely different fashion. Valderrama, who most people still think of as That 70s Show's Fez, is a real high point of the proceedings from his expounding on the flavor of souls to his first vamp out complete with snake slit eyes and fangs that match. It was both an exciting moment and a different style of vampire that I don't know that had seen before. 

Robert Patrick, still mostly remembered as the gooey Terminator, is a good replacement for Harvey Keitel who played the role of Jacob in FDTD:TMP, and as he ages, he reminds me more and more of Robert Mitchum (albeit with less cool and less good looks). The only real weak character still is Ranger Gonzalez. I want to like the character, but so far, I know little about him apart from the fact that he's on the trail of the Geckos. While most of the other characters seem to have moments to round themselves out as full characters, Gonzalez feels like a sketch, even after a look at his home life. Seeing as he seems destined to be the series' hero (or villain I guess if you're all into the Geckos), I would think they would expand on him a little more. Hopefully, in future episodes, he gets more time to be developed. 

Even after these two episodes, and having a semi-positive reaction to the second episode, I still can't say for certain if I like the direction things are going. There seems to be some psychic link between Richie and the vamps, and the way Carlos was pulling the strings makes me intrigued to know why the creatures of the night seem to be guiding all the characters to the same point. Still, that' sphere the problem lies. With eight episodes left, there's only a matter of time before they bring the cast together, get to the Titty Twister (which I expect to be renamed), be sad that there's no way Cheech will be reprising his "pussy" monologue, and wait for all hell to break loose. 

Either way, I've decided I'm strapped in for the ride, and if you are (or aren't and want to see if I make it through), I'll be back with reviews of  more episodes to see if I can make it from the dawn of the series to the dusky finale. 

1 comment:

  1. El Rey Network is a cool as heck channel but I haven't tried watching FDTD yet. Thanks for the insight!
    -GG Jaeger

    ReplyDelete

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