John Richards

Film & TV Editor

Strike Back Reviews

by Dec 3, 2011Reviews, Strike Back0 comments

WASHINGTON POST: “A vigorous sprint across a macho minefield… a surprisingly stylish and addictive new counterterrorism series…. really a study in successfully crossing a minefield of testosterone clichés, barely avoiding a “MacGyver” here and a Vin Diesel there and Guy Ritchie project over there. As the action moves to Mumbai, something about the show just clicks: It’s serious without being hammy. It’s violence without overkill. It’s hawkish without becoming jingoistic. The writing is almost entirely expository, but the acting (really, it’s the British accents) tends to gloss over that shortcoming. And it’s on Skinemax, which means the sex scenes are sweaty, ravenous and yet studiously soft-core.

NY TIMES: In Between the Terrorist Threats, Plenty of Time for Hanky-Panky. Cinemax — the network and the punch line — has always had a businesslike approach to original programming. Sex-businesslike, that is. “The Best Sex Ever,” “Sex Games Cancun,” “Zane’s Sex Chronicles”: its late-night offerings have made it the soft-core cathouse of premium cable. Now Cinemax has decided to join the prime-time drama game played so successfully by its parent, HBO, as well as other pay-cable networks like Showtime and Starz. In a bid to expand its young-male audience, it’s taking what it knows best (which would be sex) and adding a traditional complement, violence. Strike Back offers reasonably competent action scenes, depressingly casual depictions of torture and death, and a comic-book conspiracy story line while also being an efficient nudity delivery system. It’s the kind of show in which an agent doesn’t realize there are terrorists in the hotel lobby because he’s upstairs having it off with the waitress he met 10 minutes ago. We’re in B-movie international-thriller territory, Strike Back” won’t make anyone forget “24” or “MI-5” or even “The Unit,” but it has its pleasures for the aficionado of guns and flesh in exotic locales. There’s something satisfying in the combination of crisp British detachment and Cinemax lasciviousness. The actors give these gun-toting clichés a little personality and a credible rapport budding bromance between the two main action heroes.

LA TIMES: Cinemax’s new special ops drama shoots high with plenty of action and thrills and a simmering bromance that’s fun to watch. The continuation of a British show “Strike Back” revolves around one of those elite bands of superheroes who can hack into any security system, outshoot any paramilitary mercenary, out-talk any rogue cell member and take down a phalanx of machine gun-toting terrorists while only armed with the hotel bath towel that had previously been wrapped around their middle. The body count is high, the action relentless and all the Section 20 members shout “copy that” into their ear phones so often a viewer will be excused from wondering when Chloe is going to parachute in and offer a much needed tutorial on how to track a paneled van through really bad traffic. But it’s more methadone than madness; where “24” was the archetypal tale of the lone gunslinger operating within the grim realities of newly revamped military protocol (i.e., torture), “Strike Back” is, at its heart, a buddy movie, a simmering life-or-death bromance between its two male leads.

CHICAGO TRIBUNE: a stylish, addictive action thriller that fills a definite void in the macho spy drama genre. I just wish the 10-part series didn’t take Cinemax’s joke name—Skinemax—so much to heart. But I’ll get to that. As we approach the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, “Strike Back” brings back that desire to kick some terrorist butt—or at least it offers an escape from downer headlines. There isn’t anything too deeply intellectual here because the action moves the plot. And “Strike Back” has action to spare. And while some plot devices are familiar—hotel hostage-taking was done a couple times on the superior “MI-5”—but “Strike Back” avoids action clichés just enough to avoid being a ridiculous Steven Seagal movie. The actors ground the show as well, adding emotional heft to what could be caricatures. This being Skinemax, the creators of the show throw a whole lot of nudity and sex at viewers. I can’t believe I’m complaining about it, but the nudity here is often gratuitous to the point of being laughable. When we first meet Scott, we see his butt before his face… think we get the point that Scott’s a womanizer by the way he hits on every woman he meets; we don’t need to see a month’s worth of breasts and butt cheeks in every episode. Jack Bauer never even went to the bathroom, let alone slept around. All that unnecessary sex distracts from the important stuff, like watching these testosterone titans take down the terrorists.

NEW YORK POST: Not for the faint of heart, the weak of stomach or the connoisseur of art, Cinemax’s original series, “Strike Back,” is, however, perfect for several people I know: the love interest and his friends. A few weekends back, these guys, armed with my screeners, secluded themselves indoors and watched four straight hours of “Strike Back,” coming up only long enough to grab more food and yell, “They’re really kicking ass down there!” Clearly, they weren’t fighting off terrorists in the basement with nachos, but they were so worked up, it almost seemed like it. Nothing new here…But that doesn’t mean the series doesn’t work. It’s no “MI-5,” but since Cinemax went to the Brits to make the show, it’s as good as you will get from secret agent/terrorist-hunter shows. Because it’s Brit-produced, don’t expect your favorites to last long, as the British have no problem killing off even the biggest, most-beloved characters. Good action, good characters and, besides, it’s the only show in the history of TV where the term, “f-cking pr-ck” is code

VARIETY: Strip away the counterterrorism lingo and this is really just a mismatched buddy cop show, with a square-jawed Brit) thrown together with a skirt-chasing Yank special forces officer. The plots are timely — including an international hotel attack and hostage standoff — but the espionage comes across as a thinly veiled excuse to go globe-trotting through the slimy back streets where terrorists huddle. The main problem, given Cinemax’s profile, is logistical: Guys drawn to such fare are often loath to commit to series, as opposed to whatever late night sex, nudity and violence they happily stumble across. The good news is if “Strike Back” does any business at all, Cinemax can declare victory, and if the show lands with a dull thud, it’ll be easy enough for the channel to make like Section 20 and simply pretend it doesn’t exist.


NY DAILY NEWS: unapologetic, fist-pumping, nonstop action thriller with compelling good guys and loathsome bad guys…needs to be your appointment television for the next 10 weeks.”Strike Back” fills the void (action popcorn flicks) beautifully, with the added bonus of two reassuringly smart and occasionally flawed good guys.
HUFFINGTON POST: Think of it as a British take on “24”–but with more sex and violence.

INDIE WIRE: This juiced-up second series feels younger, less conflicted, more kung-fu acrobatic. So fast-paced it makes 24 look sluggish, and with a brighter, livelier tone that embraces both multi-cultural inclusiveness and macho backslapping….first rate pulp TV, with enough unexpected heart and authenticity to guarantee that its thrills are never cheap. A counter-terrorism action series, it probably isn’t grim or one-sided enough to be adopted by ideologues of any stripe, and it isn’t in the superhero business. Loud and fast and brightly colored, with sudden up-against-the-wall sex scenes that keep the volume turned up to eleven between the fire fights,