Tag Archives: Ritchie Coster

HBO’s True Detective: Season 2

So just what was it about season two of HBO’s True Detective that caused such a monumental ruckus of ruthless criticism? Well, who can say. I imagine it had something to do with the dark, difficult and byzantine way that creator Nic Pizzolatto presents the material. Maybe it’s the fact that it had to follow the lightning in a bottle, southern gothic, out of left field mastery of season one. Simply just the shift in tone and setting? I’m reaching for straws here because the hate and rejection that this brilliant piece of television has amassed always flew over my head. This is deep, dark LA noir at its finest, most gorgeously dangerous and I love every challenging, impenetrable episode to bits.

The setting shifts from bayous of Louisiana, the amount of lead characters multiplies significantly and where there was once eerie folk horror and occult conspiracy we now find decadence, corruption most high and a focused, implosive inwardness in exploring each individual the narrative focuses on. Colin Farrell is unbearably intense as LA cop Ray Velcoro, a haunted addict who has fallen from the grace of both the department and his family, but isn’t down for the count quite yet. Vince Vaughn is emblematic of every career criminal trying to go straight as Frank Semyon, a stubborn small time kingpin with dreams of scoring big in California real estate. Rachel McAdams is haunted as Ani Bezzerides, a cop with a tragic past and the deep set trauma to prove it. Taylor Kitsch is Paul Woodrough, a pent up special ops veteran turned state trooper who rounds out this quartet as they’re faced with the kind of miserable, insurmountable odds one always finds in the best kind of film noirs. There’s an unsettling, decades old conspiracy afoot in the fictional yet uneasily realistic county of Vinci, CA, a brooding, festering menace that seems rooted in the now booming transportation system that has taken the economy by storm. Our heroes struggle to fight treachery, debauchery and excess run mad everywhere they turn, for their souls and California’s itself alike as the slogan for promotional material “We get the world we deserve” seems stingingly apparent throughout.

Farrell is my favourite as Velcoro, the anxiety ridden badass who displays the horrors of his past in the manic whites of his eyes and drowns them out with enough booze and blow to feed a city’s collective habit. He’s an antihero type, moonlighting as an enforcer for Vaughn but maintaining a fierce moral compass when all else is naught. Vaughn feasts on the stylized dialogue here and produces verbal poetry so good it hurts and you hit the rewind button just to hear his delivery again. His Frank is a hard, jaded piece of work with a soul hiding beneath the layers of anger and distrust for the world around him. McAdams’s Ani comes from a place of childhood trauma so unthinkable that they barely show it in hushed flashback, and it’s apparent in her caged animal body language, by far the actress’s most affecting work. Kitsch makes the slightest impression of the four and his arc didn’t seem as immediate as the others but he still did a bang up job in intense physicality. After the success of season one a host of excellent actors were drawn to this project, standouts here include David Morse as Ani’s commune leader dad, Kelly Reilly as Frank’s intuitive wife and second in command, Rick Springfield (!) as a shady plastic surgeon, Ritchie Coster as Vinci’s terminally alcoholic mayor, W. Earl Brown, James Frain, Ronny Cox, C.S. Lee, Lolita Davidovitch and the legendary Fred Ward as Ray’s bitterly prophetic ex-cop father.

Pizzolatto spins a very different kind of story here, one composed of long glances, deep shadows, arresting establishing shots of Vinci’s sprawling highway system, as dense and tough to navigate as the season’s central mystery, which isn’t one you get a sense of in just one, two or even three viewings. Impatience and frustration are easy to understand with this narrative, but one shouldn’t write off this piece so easily and I’m sure that’s what happened. A few people don’t have the time to invest in it, get hostile and throw some negative reviews out there and before you know it it becomes cool to hate and there’s folks throwing around words like ‘flawed’ before they’ve attempted a single episode, but that’s the way the internet works I suppose. Balls to them though, this is a deliciously dark, highly stylized, very emotional ride through a world whose themes, intentions and true colours aren’t readily visible until you descend several layers deep alongside these compelling characters. It’s thoughtful, pessimistic yet just hopeful enough to keep a candle lit in all that darkness and has some of the most beautiful acting, camera, dialogue and music work I’ve seen from anything. Masterpiece.

-Nate Hill

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SyFy’s Happy!

You hear the expression ‘like nothing else out there’ used a lot these days, but I promise you there *really* is nothing else on TV like SyFy’s Happy!, an hysterically haywire slice of hyper stylized pandemonium that doesn’t so much genre bend as it does take out each genre with a firing squad and gleefully blast a trail wholly it’s own.

Now a disclaimer must be made: this is one fucked up, nightmarish, excessively disturbing, deliberately transgressive piece of madness that marches right into zones that are thoroughly taboo and isn’t afraid to get its hands uncomfortably dirty. However, none of it feels doom, gloom or weighty with the subject matter, this story is set around Christmas and for all the horrific, heinous trappings, there’s a deliriously joyous, madcap feel to it and if you are a fan of extremely dark humour, it’s one of the funniest things to come down the pipeline in a while.

Brought to life by original comic book artist Grant Morrison and filmmaker Brian Taylor (Crank, Gamer, Mom & Dad), this is the oddball tale of NYC ex-cop turned mob hitman Nick Sax (Christopher Meloni), a sad-sack, hedonistic screwball who finds himself on the adventure of a lifetime when the daughter he never knew he had is kidnapped by a meth smoking Yuletide freak show named Very Bad Santa (Joseph Reitman). The girl’s imaginary friend, a animated flying unicorn named Happy (Patton Oswalt) hijacks him into finding her and tackling the deep, scary web of corruption and crime in the city laced with twists, spectacularly violent action sequences, a bang on parody of the Italian American mafia, surprisingly touching character beats, countless film and literary references, sharp, succinct writing and more. Meloni and his rodentia masculinity were born for this role, he’s a cyclone of priceless facial expressions, maniacal physical comedy, growling one liners, cheerful self deprecation and at times is even more animated than the actual cartoon itself, who is gamely voiced by Oswalt as a naive sidekick who eventually finds his footing. Then there’s the villains. Ohhh fuck are there ever some evil bitch ass bottom feeding psychos running about this story. Reitman’s Very Bad Santa is well… bad enough, but then there’s crotchety, old school crime boss ‘Blue’ Scaramucci, played to the grimacing hilt by character actor Ritchie Coster, who has been taking the supporting role digs by storm for years now and really needs his own lead role. Or Patrick Fischler’s Smoothie (you don’t even want to know how he got that name), a deranged mass murdering madman who monologues like there’s no tomorrow and gets sick thrills from inflicting acts I dare not outline here. The eventual main villain is so nasty and perverse I won’t spoil the surprise but what a piece of work. Other brazenly bracing performances come from an unusually subdued Debi Mazar in a cheeky send up of mob divas, Lilli Mirojnick as the intrepid NYPD detective who hassles and helps Nick, Bryce Lorenzo as kidnapped Hailey who proves quite resourceful, Medina Senghore as her dogged mother and Nick’s seething ex wife and uh… Jerry Springer too.

Any review that describes this show won’t do it justice, it’s the kind of thing you just have to see because it doesn’t even sound like it would work on paper. I can’t compare it to anything else as it feels so organic. There’s darkness and horror, but it’s presented in such a way that doesn’t feel overbearing, the vibe is always whip smart, mile a minute jokes and laughter and the relationship between Nick and Happy, one that should feel ludicrous and cartoonish, actually has emotional heft to it and a discernible arc. There’s copious amounts of graphic violence, stabbings, shootings, dismemberment, giant black dildos, menstrual blood used in a marinara sauce (yeccchh), excessive substance abuse, deep seated corruption in law enforcement, children in extreme peril almost every episode and more. Despite all that, it never feels self indulgent or nihilistic; it cares about its characters, the suffering we see in the world and the injustice that goes along with it. Like any all encompassing social commentary, it also sees the bleak, ironic humour that goes hand in hand with all of that. It’s playful, risky, original, stylized to the point of being abstract art at times, gross, terrifying, sad, bizarre, Christmassy, punishingly violent, unique and nothing short of brilliant. Bring on season 2, please.

-Nate Hill

Michael Mann’s Luck: A short lived masterpiece 


Michael Mann’s Luck was a painfully short lived HBO original series with reach-for-the-stars potential, a mind blowing cast and a terse, eccentric script from David Milch, all fuelling a brilliant ensemble storyline set in a pristine Los Angeles horse racing track. I’ll get the elephant out of the room right away: the series was cancelled due to a few of the horses dying on set, for whatever reasons. Had it been allowed to continue though, I imagine it would have gone on to become one of the network’s, and Mann’s, most hallowed and heralded works. Dustin Hoffman is the centrepiece of the cast as Chester ‘Ace’ Bernstein, a sharp witted Jewish mobster who’s recent stretch in the joint has somewhat dulled his edge. Nevertheless, he slyly takes a stab at playing his hand with horse ownership, joined by his charismatic driver Gus (Dennis Farina, reliably wonderful). There’s all kinds of other hoopla going on, and it’s cool to see the story focus on both the upper crust elite doing their shady deals as well as everyday joes tossing their money into these worshipped games. Kevin Dunn is terrific as a disabled firebrand of a gambler, joined by his two scrappy pals (Ritchie Koster and Jason Gedrick) as they try out their own brand of luck. Jill Hennessy is a determined horse trainer who clashes with a belligerent owner (Yul Vasquez), and there’s two ominous crime kingpins played by Michael Gambon and Ted Levine who hover in the shadows as well. Further still is a heartbreaking turn from Richard ‘Bing Bong’ Kind as a stressed out jockey manager, Nick Nolte as a crusty, broken-down horse trainer, Joan Allen, Alan Rosenberg, Spencer Garrett, Don Harvey, Ian Hart, W. Earl Brown, Shaun Toub, Bruce Davison, Frank Collison, Mercedes Rhuel, Tony Curran and a cameo from Jurgen Pröchnow as the stern owner of the whole track. How’s that for a cast. I must say that the dense, peculiar dialogue from Milch takes some time getting used to, but once you tune in to it’s jive, it’s pure poetry being rattled off by every character, and a gorgeously structured, meticulously layered script at that. The actors are all on a plane of pure excellence as well, many of them turning in career best efforts and bringing their roles vividly to life. The cinematography from various artists is pure spun gold too, every sparkling irrigation sprinkler, glistening horse coat, careful closeup and crop of dirt kicked up by hooves captured succinctly and smoothly. This seriously is as near to a perfect season of television as one can get, and it kills me that it got cut down before it had a chance to really get going, because just think of the places it could have gone. At least we still have this first glorious season to admire, and I recommend every minute of it. 

-Nate Hill

TRUE DETECTIVE 2.3 MAYBE TOMORROW – A Review by Frank Mengarelli

TRUE DETECTIVE 2.3 MAYBE TOMORROW

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The third episode of the new season did a perfect job of fleshing the four main characters out in a complex and natural way. The episode opened with a surprising and welcome turn from veteran character actor Fred Ward as Colin Farrell’s retired cop father, in Farrell’s dreamscape. Ward, who later appears in a fantastic scene with Farrell, was cast perfectly much like Jack Palance being cast as Nicholson’s boss in BATMAN.

The episode dug deeper into Vince Vaughn’s primal gangster psyche, where he is forced to revert back to his thug brutality casting aside the educated facade he’s so carefully constructed around himself. Vaughn is currently giving the performance of his career, playing a man who is so desperate to shake his Chicago gangster persona by speaking in analytical riddles and multiple syllable words he’s heard, presumably, spoken by the sophisticated men he’s trying to legitimize himself with.

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In my review of last week’s episode, I referenced THE LONG GOOD FRIDAY, and this episode falls in line perfectly with that. The scene where Vaughn summons all the criminals he knows into the basement of the club is a clear homage to that film. The scene was only missing the men dangling upside down from meat hooks. But it was championed by Vaughn’s vicious use pliers.

Colin Farrell lives, because of course he does. Whilst killing him off in the second episode would have been audacious and perhaps even brilliant, he is the central hub of this show. Farrell is giving a blistering and raw performance as a man who has nothing left to live for, and the only thing propelling him forward is the rage inside him that he can barely contain for much longer. The entire episode, Farrell is physically distraught, rarely blinks and is a bomb waiting to detonate that will lay absolute waste to anything surrounding him. Farrell’s whiskey and cocaine bloated physicality is a prime example of how carefully details are paid to on this show.

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Taylor Kitsch’s Paul Woodrugh is losing his grip on himself. He can barely keep his homosexual urges repressed, and his inner torment is causing his world around him to erode. I can’t wait to see how Kitsch’s storyline plays out, and I imagine it’s going to keep spiralling downward.

Rachel McAdam’s is fantastic as the emotional vampire, sucking life from the patrolman Mike, just so she can keep moving onward with hers. I am absolutely loving the running joke of everyone commenting on the fact that McAdams keeps smoking an e-cigarette.

Ritchie Coster is fabulous as the drunken mayor of fictional city of Vinci who is the antithesis of corrupted power. Coster has been chameleon like in everything I’ve seen him in. Such as THE DARK KNIGHT, THE BLACKOUT and HBO’s tremendous but ill fated LUCK. This is the second time in as many episodes we’ve seen the picture of the privileged Mayor and George W. Bush embracing one another. I can’t help but enjoy the kinship and association we are meant to take from that.

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What makes the second season of TRUE DETECTIVE so fantastic thus far is that if the seasons were flipped all the critics and naysayers would be complaining about how self indulged and pretentious Matthew McConaughey’s dialogue is. I honestly cannot understand what the critics, who were sent a screener containing the first three episodes of this season (so we are now caught up with them) are complaining about, and frankly I don’t care. Each episode of this season has been better than its former. What we’ve seen from the second season as of right now are four career high performances from the leads, a fantastic noir with an ambiguous time setting (cops are smoking in the Vinci police department at their desks, as are people in the bar where Farrell and Vaughn meet, tube TV’s strategically placed, digital and analog technology mixed together) and a pitch black world, where the main characters get exactly that. Maybe tomorrow will be better, but deep down inside they each know it won’t. They are getting the world they deserve.