From Dusk Till Dawn S01E01
Directed by: Robert Rodriquez
Produced by: El Rey Network
Was anyone really clamouring for a TV series based on a nearly 20-year-old movie that, while it amassed a cult following, didn’t really set the box office alight on its original release? Well, no matter because we have one anyway. Produced and directed by original director Robert Rodriguez and appearing on his own El Wray television network in the States (it’s on Netflix over here) it seems all hopes are pinned on this serialised version of the George Clooney starring 1996 movie being a breakout success.
[Note: I’ll be constantly comparing the series with the film. Normally I’d try not to do that in the hope of outlining what the show does to set itself apart but because it follows Quentin Tarantino’s movie script so closely – even replicating certain lines and scenes almost verbatim – that it’s difficult not to. And if the show itself is doing that, I’m going to have to too.]
Taking the basic premise of the original film and expanding upon the back stories of the cast of characters in a way a two hour film couldn’t seems to be the modus operandi here. In fact, the entire 45-minute-long first episode – aside from a pre-credits teaser involving the once and future Salma Hayek – basically extends the scene in the liquor store that opened the movie but gives a little more character to the ultimately doomed patrons within. And it neatly sets up what one assumes will be the driving force behind the series as the partner of the cop killed in the store is now actively hunting for the Gecko brothers.
Speaking of the brothers, DJ Cotrona and Zane Holtz are pretty decent as Seth and Richie and look like they’re capable of giving their characters more layers in a serialised format than Clooney (a great actor) and Tarantino (eh, not so much) were able to in two hours. Richie is certainly the more interesting brother at the moment; where in the movie he was just an out and out psycho, here he seems to be a deeply troubled young man who may or may not be receiving prophetic visions of trouble to come in the shape of Santanico Pandemonium. And an out and out psycho. Cotrona gives good Clooney but isn’t given much more to do other than act out the exact same script beats as Clooney did 18 years ago.
One wonders where exactly a series can go from here if all they’ll be doing is elongating the movie (or perhaps movies. There are two DTV sequels that I haven’t seen); future episodes will contain the travelling preacher and his family – with Robert Patrick taking over from Harvey Kietel – and the brothers are already on their way to escape across the border with the infamous Titty Twister bar as a road stop on the way presumably. With the variety of interesting characters that populated the movie all ending up at said bar will we get Lost style flashbacks for every single one? We’ve already seen how Santanico Pandemonium was born/made; will we get to see Frost’s troubles in Vietnam? Will we see how Cheech Marin’s character, whose defining moment in the film is unprintable on this website, became a vampire? Will there be a Sex Machine flashback episode to find out where he got his crotch pistol?
It’s also a mystery who this series is being targeted at; those who have seen the movie will be confused by the redundancy of many of its plot elements that they already have knowledge of, and will those coming into it new care enough about the anti-heroes to keep watching without the fore knowledge of the movie’s original twist?
Overall, it’s a bit of a mixed bag. It’s not bad by any stretch, just wholly unremarkable at present, but then this is only the pilot and I’m basing all my assumptions on where I think the series will go based on what’s presented here when it could go in a totally different direction. In its defence it’s very well made, pleasingly violent in a way that TV usually isn’t, it has an easy charm to it and there are intriguing hints at a larger game plan. I’ll certainly be back next week, if only to see where they go from here.
3 nerds out of 5 Nerds