Cinemax's 'Quarry': A timely action anthem dripping with pulpy flavor

There's a scene during the pilot for Quarry, Cinemax's new pulpy action anthem of a fall series, where a man and woman have a complex conversation without a single word of dialogue being exchanged. It's all in the looks on their faces, the movement of their bodies, and the events that led up to it. It is the last scene in this haunting comic strip opening of a show from director/executive producer Greg Yaitanes and creators Graham Gordy and Michael D. Fuller.

Yaitanes brings his Banshee magic to the story of Mac “Quarry” Conway (Logan Marshall-Green), a Vietnam vet who returns home to Memphis in 1972 under the fiery implications of wrong conduct overseas. Calling Mac haunted is like calling a couple fingers of Jack Daniels strong. The war isn’t letting go of this man’s soul anytime soon and it’s something that evokes what modern war vets deal with. The man has a caged animal inside his heart rattling around as he reconnects with his wife Joni (Jodi Belfour) and tries to stay on an even keel and adjust to society, part of which doesn't want anything to do with him.

Fuller and Gordy do a superb job of transcribing the source material of Max Allan Collins (Road to Perdition), whose graphic novel the series is based off of, to the small screen in a way that is invigorating and puts a fresh spin on the crisis that surrounded Vietnam for Americans and their families in the 1970s. Coming off a decade where a President and two National motivating world changing speakers were assassinated and a war that many didn't understand took place, Quarry works off a juicy springboard to create a compelling action drama.

Those three words are hard to execute on television. Compelling. Action. Drama. Yaitanes takes a can of old school class and paints it over the actor’s faces, the cars they drive, and the look of a town ripped apart in Memphis. He transports the viewer with every shot. Yaitanes directed several of Banshee's finest hours by never avoiding a crisp shot or different way to frame a pivotal moment and he carries it over here.

Take the first scene of the series. A man waking up off the shore of a river, retrieving a nearby gun, and putting two holes in another man sitting a few yards away before pushing his lifeless body into the open water. The camera leaks black and white over the action, and includes a closeup of Marshall-Green's face that signifies the tragedy going on inside the man's head. It's a future shot from a story still getting its legs underneath itself.

It's a breakthrough performance for Green, an actor some may know from fleeting images in past films (Prometheus and Devil to name a couple) but an actor who has never truly gotten to chew on any serious meat on film yet. Mac is a crowded chess board for an actor, and Marshall-Green doesn't swing and miss. He gets all of it in a role that can't cover up similarities to another leading man in a Yaitanes production. The ingredients on Mac's plate are guilt, rage, and contempt with a side of righteousness and the man barely gets his hands on the utensils in the first hour.

What's the rest of the story? Do you really need to know? Okay, I'll tell you a little more. Mac runs into certain people and work that isn't conventional yet fitting all the same. Violence follows along with unexpected dread. There's so much to explore here and the period chosen by Collins for his tale is signature and fits the mold of broken men doing bad things to keep themselves from falling completely apart.

If Banshee addicts are feeling withdrawal from May's series finale, they'll find solace in Quarry, a series that uses action like the throttle to an engine driven by storytelling and drama. The acting from Marshall-Green and Justified alum Damon Herriman, Peter Mullan, and Balfour is top notch while the writing of Fuller and Gordy will make you remember their names.

The bricks for something special are laid in the pilot, showing once again how underrated Cinemax is for original series production. After The Knick and Banshee, some respect came its way and instead of resting on its laurels and creating mimics of that entertainment, the network has reached back into history for a new flavor.

Quarry demands your attention.

Catch it every Friday at 9 p.m. on Cinemax. If you don't have Cinemax, make a friend nearby and watch it. Find a way. Friday nights at home just got sexy again.


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