KSDK - What makes an action sequence great? A heightened sense of reality that doesn't leave the realm of possibility yet invokes an urge to include a sleeve of comic book pulp.
Cinemax's Quarry constructed the perfect action sequence last Friday in its second episode, Figure Four.
The setup: Mac, played by Logan Marshall-Green, and Buddy, played by Damon Herriman, are taking care of more business for The Broker, and run into a band of thieves in a guns for money exchange.
In the words of Ron Burgundy, things escalated quickly between the two men and the larger group of adversaries. On Quarry, there are no clear cut good and bad guys. Everybody carries a shade of grey in their pocket.
Quarry and Buddy are equipped for the task, and the latter gains the upper hand once he knows the deal is going south. He stabs the leader in the neck and the gunfire erupts.
Now, what makes an action sequence great is when the men with guns fire and actually miss. If you have ever fired a weapon as powerful as a shotgun or semi automatic handgun, you'll understand how easy it is to miss your target. Quarry/Buddy exchange gunfire with the dealers, but most of the time they miss. In a scene where tons of bullets are fired and gunpowder fills the air, the two best kills happen without weapons.
The first involves the deadly looking baseball bat full of nails that viewers saw in the pilot. Buddy pounding a dozen nails into the bat and when asked by Quarry what it was for, he says "wouldn't you like to know." In other words, it is used for bashing in a man's skull when threatened.
After Quarry goes after the man in the car who took the money, Buddy kills a man in the worst way possible. Clubbing him like Hank Aaron (that is a 70's baseball reference) with his special bat. It's brutal, but shows that killers do whatever it takes to win and make it out alive.
The action, shot by director/executive producer Greg Yaitanes with the help of stunt coordinator Richard Burden make the exchange as realistic as possible without escaping the pulpy confines of the source material. A wounded Buddy standing over the battered body is framed perfectly from afar just far enough to make our imaginations run rampant.
The car chase is even better, and the positioning of the camera is key. It is set up behind the driver, Green, and every time he smashes his car into the runaway car, the entire frame shakes just enough. Directors have overused the shaky cam during the past 10 - 15 years, but Yaitanes and cinematographer Pepe Avila del Pino know exactly how much is required to rattle the viewers.
After a good chase that includes several collisions and messy driving, the runaway car gets the top of its car ripped off by a hanging partition. The driver is beheaded but the good part here is the director and writers Michael D. Fuller and Graham Gordy don't let you see it until a few moments later. Again, the carnage is present but it's not overdone. It's blunt without soaking the viewer.
Great action is a measured dose of precise camera work, versatile actors, and the ability to be restrained at the moment where over the top sits nearby asking for attention. In this scene from episode 2, Figure Four, Quarry hits the mark. I watched the scene five times. It was that good.
The rest of the show isn't that bad either.
Folks, get in at the ground floor of this Friday night treat. Well done shows about good men breaking bad are like a juicy porterhouse steak.
After taking Banshee addicts on the Lucas Hood roller coaster, Yaitanes is doing it again with Quarry. There's something sexy, and slightly mysterious, about reluctant anti-heroes that make for good entertainment.
It's more than entertainment too. Quarry covers the desolate ground that Vietnam vets walked when they returned home.
A troubling war left a country fractured and the race wars and underlying hostility play a key role in what happens with Quarry and his drift through the land of killers and rebel souls. There's more beneath the surface of this beast if you look hard enough.
I've been known to get there late to great shows. I jumped into Sopranos, The Wire, Game of Thrones and Dexter late. I didn't watch an episode of Breaking Bad until after it wrapped up. I didn't make that mistake with Banshee, and didn't with Quarry.
Watch it folks. It's an extremely well edited movie that plays right in your home. Instead of taking a chance on a movie theater offering, check out Quarry. It's two hours in and only gets better.