“Strike Back” Returns August 17th (plus “Haywire”)

Before Facebook, I used to blog more on entertainment I recommend than I have in recent years.  Given that is summer, I thought it might be OK to do it again.  There is a relatively unheralded program on Cinemax that I very much enjoy.  “Strike Back” is action series with an unusual combination of British production values and a big budget provided by HBO/Cinemax.  The series is about a fictional British counter-terrorism unit called Section 20.  It has amazingly good special forces-style action, and lots of sex and nudity too, so it is not for the youngin’s.  But there is a dramatic element that heightens the suspense and makes the show into the top ranks of television.  Last season, the one hour episodes actually constituted 2-hour discrete plots, with an overriding story about the pursuit of a Pakistani terrorist mastermind.  Apart from a relatively irrelevant conspiracy McGuffin (that mainly serves to tip off the bad guys) it is remarkably free of PC cant.  It is a Bruce Willis-type action shoot ‘m up, that the producers describe as a cross between 24 and Bourne Identity.  I think it is much better than 24, which I liked.   And it has a great theme song:  Short Change Hero by The Heavy.  Here is the teaser for Season 1 (which is actually Season 2 since the real Season 1 in the UK did not play in the US.):

This 5 minute tribute video captures the action highlights of last season while playing the whole Short Change Hero theme.   I don’t think it spoils any of the plot, though it does fail to fully capture the emotional intensity of the action. And it compresses a whole season of violence into 5 minutes, which exaggerates the amount of violence in the series. Still, if you don’t like screen violence, don’t watch this.

If you want to watch Season 1 before the new season premieres on August 17th, you can get it in Cinemax On Demand. Cinemax also made the first 2 episodes available on YouTube so you can sample it for free here and here.

Finally, here is the trailer for the new season, featuring a new Bob Dylan song, “Early Roman Kings”:

The weirdest thing for me about the series is not that the American lead character is played by an Aussie.  “American” macho lead characters on TV are regularly played by Aussies and Irish actors these days. No, the weirdest thing is that the British macho lead character in a British-produced series is played by an American actor. Go figure.

While I am on the subject of “macho” films, I can also recommend Steven Soderbergh’s (Ocean’s Eleven, Traffic) film Haywire.  Instead of the two “hunk” male heroes of Strike Back, it features the gorgeous Gina Carano as a black ops, ex-marine, super soldier who is betrayed and set up during a mission, and who must avoid and defeat the operatives sent after her.  Perhaps I should not admit this, but I have already watched this flick 3 times (though two times were on transatlantic flights).  Carano is a former Mixed Martial Arts champion who had not previously acted.  I thought her performance as an actor was fine — I did not know she was a MMA fighter and newbie actress until afterwards — and her fight scenes were terrific. I now know why.

Here is the trailer, though like so many trailers these days, it gives up more of the plot than necessary.  I prefer not to know this much about a film before I watch it.

If you want to know less about the plot, here is an interview with Gina Carano:

The film’s ending is nicely set up for a sequel. She’ll be back.