I’m Paid To Catch Crooks, Not Get Them Elected – Welcome To The Punch

28 12 2016

Welcome to the Punch (Momentum Pictures - 2013)

If I were to ask you to compare the ways of life in both the UK and in the USA, you could probably come up with a big hefty list, but I could easily bet a substantial sum of money that one of the first things you would note is that in America, ordinary people are allowed to carry a Gun. It is embedded in the constitution of said country that ‘ordinary’ people are allowed to bear arms, so it comes as no surprise to the rest of us that there are a lot of shootings in America…which eventually (of course) lead to major Massacre’s more than once a year; but what do you expect from a country that has such a relaxed attitude to the distribution of deadly weaponry! In the UK we have a stricter form of gun control by only allowing certain people to have access to such weapons where as in America such a tight control of guns is factually impossible due to the large numbers of people (or more specifically gun nutters) who think easy access to guns is actually a ‘good thing’ (even though it’s probably due to this form of idealism that is causing most of the problems). I am not saying that everything is plain sailing in the UK though when it comes to gun access as they can still be attained for criminal purposes; but for this reason the UK does have its police divisions which are specially trained to use Firearms if such a time is needed (but even so this does not stop Daily Mail readers (probably) believing that our police officers should be packing – there is no pleasing some people is there).

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Released in 2013 by Momentum Pictures and directed by Eran Creevy; Welcome to the Punch is a British Action Cop Thriller about a Policeman who ends up teaming with a noted Gangster he has a score to settle with after uncovering a deadly conspiracy within the British Police Force. The film’s script is noted for being voted third on the 2010 Brit List of the best un-produced film scripts.

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One night in London around Canary Wharf, a heist is pulled off by a team of crooks led by Jacob Sternwood (Mark Strong) who escape on Motorcycles. In hot pursuit is Detective Inspector Max Lewinsky (James McAvoy) who defies orders by chasing after them unarmed, only to be shot in the leg by Sternwood. 3 years later, Sternwood’s son Ruan (Elyes Gabel) is arrested at a London Airport after a failed heist and is in a critical condition in Hospital. Max still works for the police force, but is held in low regard by his Chief Inspector; Nathan Bartnick (Daniel Mays) due to his actions and everyday has to remove water from his shot leg. He teams up with Detective Sergeant Sarah Hawks (Andrea Riseborough) in trying to convict former army man Dean Warns (Johnny Harris), but who is let off the hook after a witness changes their statement. When news reaches Max regarding Sternwood’s son, he sees this as a chance to get revenge.

After a failed attempt to capture him, Sternwood arrives in the UK to take care of his son and asks for help from old friend Roy Edwards (Peter Mullan). With a recent spate of shootings in London, Commander Thomas Geiger (David Morrissey) is campaigning for his officers to be given better equipment in dealing with crime and sees this whole Sternwood resurgence as a way to score points in his favour. He allows Max and Sarah to take command of surveillance at an open hospital where Ruan Sternwood is being treated, hoping that Jacob Sternwood might take the bait. Things end badly however, as Max’s determination results in a gun being shoved in a civilian’s face, Ruan later dies in Hospital. Jacob Sternwood meanwhile undertakes his own investigation into what happened to his son, and lays a trap at a local Hotel where Nathan and another policeman; Harvey Crown (Jason Flemyng) take the bait, and after a small gun fight Harvey gets killed. Sarah meanwhile finds evidence regarding to a containment delivery on the river Thames. When she arrives she finds a container filled with weapons, but before she can escape she is killed by Dean Warns.

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With Commander Geiger’s blessing, Max is sent out to bring down Sternwood once and for all, and a lead on Nathan takes him to a small club, where Max runs into Sternwood, but before he can kill him, both men are ambushed by Warns and Bartnick. Bartnick is killed in the resulting fight, with Sternwood saving Max and escaping in a van. Sternwood orders Max to take him to his son in the Morgue, but while there they run into Detective Juka Ogadowa (Daniel Kaluuya) who tells Max that he is wanted for Sarah’s murder. Sternwood and Max manage to escape and go to Dean Warns’s Nan’s house where they use his Nan (Ruth Sheen) to get him to take them to the containment yard where the container full of guns are. While there, they also trap and capture Commander Geiger who informs them that he set up the means for the recent spate of gun crime in the Capital and helped to ship in the guns, so that when the correct political party took over, he could supply officers with the equipment they needed to protect themselves better. At that moment, armed men sent by Geiger’s PR Jane (Natasha Little) attack the yard, but Max and Sternwood are able to defeat them, killing both Warns and Geiger in the process. With the police on their way to the scene, Max considers shooting Sternwood, but lets him go, and is arrested on the spot as Sternwood flees the scene.

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Welcome to the Punch is a very interesting film, but one that I would not usually concern myself with watching. Yes there are a lot of independent British gangster based films that are produced year in year out but most of these don’t really grab my attention. When I first saw the trailer, I thought it was a very good trailer and was sort of suckered in with the line that stated that one of the executive producers was Ridley Scott (I know); but the trailer still grabbed me enough to keep it in mind. I eventually got round to going to the cinema to see it and was absolutely blown away by it. While not necessarily the best film of 2013 (my 4th favourite overall), it was a film that while released early on, was one that remained in my mind and would not let go of.

James McAvoy

Welcome to the Punch is not really a gangster film, nor is it a knuckle dusting, all guns blazing shooter movie, what it is, is a solid British Police/Cop film. What do I mean by this? Well, it is a crime film with elements of gangster films but is not one in search of blood lust. What we have is a decent detective who has had his pride shot after an incident wanting some form of restitution. Due to his past failings though he is held in low esteem by his superiors and is sort of made a joke of and as such has fallen on hard times in his personal life. Meanwhile, the super criminal who has pulled off a heist which he can safely retire on, is forced to return to his home country when his son is in danger. This means he has returned, and the detective sees this as an opportunity to settle a score with him plus return into the good books with others. While all this is coming to a head however, the incidents surrounding this turn of events begin to unravel and a much darker conspiracy comes to the fold which means that the two great enemies will have to leave it for later as there is something they both need to settle first and need each other to pull it off. What we have here basically (or as basic as I can get it) is a big action packed detective story with a boiling vendetta ready to erupt engulfing the entire city with it, but still comes with that murder mystery formula that works so well along with the big explanation as to what has exactly been going on and the real crooks revealed, but in the end succumbs to a very tragic end for the hero. It’s like a great crime novel, something that if it wasn’t McAvoy and Strong, could well be Harry Bosch (have not read a single novel, but my researched understanding suggests that he would fit the bill).

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To back up its story, Welcome to the Punch comes with a small but still powerful cast of actors and actresses who deliver some amazing characters in the process, seemingly suggesting that without the actors, the characters would just not have worked. The film does of course have it’s one timers of interest who deliver little such as Ruan, Karen Edwards (Dannielle Brent) and Harvey Crown, to more included characters who still have a little but not a lot such as Juka and Jane, but all of these really go far to enhance the film’s story and setting (not to forget the city of London itself, especially when you listen to the wise words of Luther creator Neil Cross who sums up London’s character status better than anyone else), but the film’s small cast enables these varied roles to really stand out and warrant such a pedigree of acting. I do find Johnny Harris’s role a ,little clichéd in the form that he is a bruiser with little social life and has to engage a lot of heavy breathing, I just couldn’t see why he could not be more like Mike in Breaking Bad or even Buck in Far Cry 3, real characters with a unique personality but are still hitmen to a cause; however his insertion as a gun for hire really allows himself to develop a characteristic which suggests a real hitman, less an armed thug with little allowance to talk. The character of Nathan Bartnick is as unpleasant as the early morning traffic jam on a rainy day, but I suppose that’s the point. He does not come across as pleasant, but given that he is the first end level boss of the film, you can’t really introduce him as a nice man, more of a feeder into something bigger, and let a more major character present himself favorably in the eyes of the audience only to flip at the last-minute.

David Morrissey’s character is that of someone you could confuse of being a mayor if it was not explained that he is actually a police man. He is introduced really well and works hard to present himself as being a supportive influence on Max and who comes across well with the audience as a result. He is a strong leader with a lot of hope and a big heart, really showing that he sees the best in people. All that turns around in a trice however as he is revealed to be the big bad instigator of the film’s events, less a leader, more of a manipulator, whose long career has provided an insight into the criminal underworld, and one he knows how to manipulate to get his wish. His heart is in the right place, and is not looking for a position of power, not a megalomaniac, more a lunatic who thinks that with enough prodding he can get the best outcome. It’s a real shock turn of events that leaves you reeling, as for the great majority of the film; he is one of the good guys. Peter Mullan is an inspired casting choice as his veterancy on the British independent scene means he can slip into a variety of persona’s and can come across anyway he likes. For instance, in this he is introduced as something of an old gangster and a possible mentor to Sternwood, however he comes across as something of a respected member of the community with a lot of power under his belt, and while he is on the initial bad side, he does prove his worth and becomes a trusted ally to all those who side with him. He maybe a retired gangster, but he still comes with a real whack of a punch while still allowing a real sense of sanity to creep in on those around him.

Mark Strong

The way that a crime lord is presented can seem very samey at times, which is why it’s nice that in this case we have someone a lot different. Jacob Sternwood is a criminal who has earned a great deal of respect from his peers and is a real tactician in the execution of a crime, his attitude to what he does though comes across as less a scheming villain, more someone looking for the opportunity to get away and be set up for life. He is suggested of being a hard worker, someone who if he was not a criminal would more than likely be real working class hero whose hard work pays off in dividends. He is a criminal though, but in the same style as what I have suggested, he is a criminal hero of sorts and is just looking for enough to live a nice relaxed life. This is strongly suggested more when his son gets into trouble, as he cares greatly for him, even more so to re-enter harm’s way to check up on him and pursue a vendetta on his behalf. Into this we have the rookie detective sent to bring him down; someone who took it too far and is now forever paying the cost for it, and has a low self-esteem due to his past behavior. He does have a strong support network around him, but his determination to get back onto the good track of life means that he does not really see it until it is too late, and as things spiral more out of control for him, he really begins to understand that there is no real way out for him, and sadly, that’s what does happen. Though while Max does go all out to prevent total Chaos, it ends tragically for him, creating a deep uncertain future that there is no coming back from. James McAvoy and Mark Strong work well off each other, as McAvoy still presents that young but experienced character with deep forgotten hopes and repressed memories, while Mark Strong presents that real strong determination but one that makes him human; not machine nor monster; together creating two very relatable characters.

James McAvoy and Mark Strong

More than anything about this film, the real highlight has to be Sarah Hawks played by the incredible Andrea Riseborough. I could not get enough of her character. She is not an assistant to Max, nor is a running partner in learning, but someone who deeply cares for him and is making it a personal mission to find a way to bring the real Max back. In many scenes she surpasses Max and you really begin to feel for her, and can see a lot of hope and future for her, thinking that she will be the big hero (or at least should have been the lead character). She presents incredible energy in a tough world, not delivering charisma or charm but more a sultry aggression, one that is fighting to be let out, but continues to maintain a level of professionalism. It strikes me though, that with a film about the police and crime, that none of them can spot the real crime in progress, that of the death of Riseborough’s character. It still annoys me to this day that Riseborough’s character was killed off as I simply wanted more of her in this film. She is more what McAvoy should have been than he plays, so why could they not have killed him in a shock twist and allowed her to take over from him. She was incredibly enjoyable and whose death is the real crime of this story.

Andrea Riseborough and James McAvoy

Welcome to the Punch does not carry a heavy burden of Special Effects, but does come with some terrifically choreographed gun fight scenes including some nicely, all be it brutally realistic scenes of the use of injection needles in James McAvoy’s leg, plus a whole heap of excellently devised shooting matches and even a pretty good bike car chase scene in a surprisingly quiet late night Canary Wharf. Any other scenes of adrenaline pumping action really come down to the human level of chases scenes on foot, plus the raw primal instincts of the cast as they deliver very realistic characters, all who appear to be on the edge of mental breakdowns in such a stressful world (come to think of it, the bike chase scene in the underground tunnels does sort of make me think of the opening scene in Blade: The Series). The film’s soundtrack meanwhile (composed by Harry Escott) is a very varied selection of tracks that that range from small low key pieces, to high-octane shouts, all dependent on the scene in hand. For the most part the film relies mostly on a sophisticated level of silence as the characters are talking and only brings in the noise as the time for talking comes to a close. Even when the music is needed, it decides to play tracks that suggest more a moment of thought rather than a moment of action; not necessarily a bad thing, just very different. Scenes that carry a piece of note include the opening heist, Max’s Flat, the attack on Sternwood’s Icelandic villa, the near kiss, the early container, post Sarah’s death, nightclub shootout, the Morgue and the Credits (not forgetting the wonderful piece of music from the film’s trailer, no idea what it is sadly).

Welcome to the Punch is a very satisfying crime thriller. It is a film that is at a good length and carries enough mystery, but not too much to heavy interlace with the scenes of action so as not to confuse itself nor the audience. It is a film with a good sophistication of action sequences, while also presenting a prolific cast of characters and delivering a deep sense of emotion. Yes, it does have its down parts (such as DS Hawks’s Death!) but it also has a lot to make up for that (except DS Hawks’s Death!) and carries on to create a brutally realistic film with a tragic un-turn-around-able ending that makes you question what the future holds and if the villains actually got away with it or not. At the same time though it does go on to question real world ideas such as gun control, the arming of British Police officers; and also delves deep into some of the deepest levels of corruption that we may never see in some of our most trusted institutions. Altogether, I think it is a rather superb film that does something very different to those around it, creating a rather unique if but small experience for all those willing to give it a shot.

GENEPOOL (Happy New Year).





Starting Over

27 07 2016

Rizzoli and Isles

Back in May, I hit a low point. For personal reasons I will not discuss what exactly was making me low, but in order for me to give this blog some meaning, I just needed to point that out. Anyway, I got low, one day I was really, really down, ended up wasting the whole day, not accomplishing or doing anything. There were games on my Laptop that I just did not want to play. There was some writing I just did not want to write, and on TV, there was nothing I wanted to watch. I had a whole load of shows to watch on catch-up, but just did not want to watch anything, even the shows I was really enjoying. Since then I have managed to reach up and get out of my low point, but one consistency remained; that of me not wanting to watch anything I had recorded on TV.

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I have come to the point that currently, there is nothing worth watching on TV. I have sort of grown out of Holby City, I am several seasons behind Arrow, The Strain is not back until roughly September, Top Gear is Dead!, and Robot Wars has no start date yet (at time of writing). Even though there are still shows on that I enjoy such as Castle, and a little bit of Quantico, I just have no interest in watching anything on TV at the moment. Basically I am bored and disinterested. I suppose I could watch Game of Thrones but first I need to get permission off my Dad to watch them.

I do not know if it’s just that time of year or something, but right now, there just appears to be nothing on TV. Perhaps it’s my mood or disinterest, but right now TV just feels empty, if it wasn’t for Rizzoli and Isles repeats, new episodes of Bob’s Burgers and new episodes of The Big Bang Theory (and apparently New Girl is to return soon too). A few weeks backs though I got some help from a new friend at church. I told him all about the above, and he told me what I needed to do. That was to find something new. Well, I think I have found it, but I wouldn’t exactly call it new.

Breaking Bad Season 1 Poster

A few weeks ago, I took some old DVD’s and games into CEX in Lancaster and got some stuff in return. My plan there was to look out for something in particular. I got some Bill Bailey Stand up DVD’s, some PS3 Games, a copy of the fifth season of Breaking Bad (having trading in the previous 4), but most of all, I got he first season of Arrow. Arrow is not exactly new to me, I have in fact been something of a fan of the show since it first started, but there was a complication. You see, when it first started I did manage to watch the first whole series and I really enjoyed it. So, I waited for and watched the first few episodes of season 2, then something bad happened. I don’t remember the full way round of the details, but the episodes were recorded on a machine, but then I think the machine got corrupted (possibly thanks to some episodes of The Tudors), and the machine was swapped, therefore I lost all the episodes of Arrow season 2 I had not watched yet. I put on a record for the other episodes, but after a while it became obvious I was not going to catch up effectively. So I deleted them and instead planned to purchase season 2 when it got released on DVD. Then however, when it did get released, it was pretty expensive, so I decided to wait until it dropped in price. Meanwhile season 3 had begun, and by the time that I did get a copy of Season 2 (nearly a year ago now), Season 3 was done with 4 on the way. As you can see I have fallen really far behind. In the meantime, season 2 on DVD has remained unwatched while over the last few weeks I have gazed too and throw at season 4’s episodes.

Arrow

It’s always been a plan of mine to get back into it, but I never could work out how, until I came up with a plan. The plan was to start from the beginning. Get a copy of Season 1 on DVD, watch that, then Season 2 and beyond. And so far (at time of writing), it appears to be working. I have watched the first episodes of season 1 and am able just to sit down and enjoy them one after another, no worrying about what will happen or anything like that, just plain old enjoyment of a TV program. Currently I do not know if it will last, if I will be able to enjoy Arrow to the full, or if I will hit another low point and not want to watch it anymore. But, I may as well enjoy it while it lasts, and then find something else to watch when it is all over.

GENEPOOL (suppose it will keep me going until the rumoured X-Men TV Series comes along, not unless it turns out to be like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.; Uninteresting).





The Strain Is Back……….Sort Of

19 08 2015

The Strain (FX Productions - 2014)

Last September/October, a new TV series from FX began airing on UK channel Watch. The first episode was terrifying and scary but left an incredible impression on me. Through the next 12 Episodes I was gripped by the show’s setting, story, ideas and characters from start to finish. I just could not get enough, watching each episode when I could. But like many TV Shows, it had to end, but a Second Series was announced, so all I had to do was wait for the next series to begin. Well, nearly a year later, next week in fact; The Strain is back on TV……….sort of. The Second series has already begun showing in America, so it shouldn’t be too long until that is shown in the UK. Just over a week ago a trailer was aired on Watch saying that The Strain returns on the 26th August (when I am on holiday, but the series link record is already set up). When I looked however, it just appeared to be the pilot episode being shown, which probably means that they are going to show the first series again before the second series airs. Pity about that, but anyway you are probably wondering; “What is The Strain?”

Based on the book series of the same name by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan, The Strain is about a terrifying new virus which slowly builds to become one of the most deadly and contagious disease strains in the history of mankind. A strain that turns people into Vampires. These Vampires have one major physical difference however in a very long, muscular tongue which they use to suck out people’s blood, and possibly turn them into Vampires too. The series stars Corey Stoll as Dr. Ephraim ‘Eph’ Goodweather; a lead agent for the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), who after investigating a strange disease discovered on board a plane gets caught up in a plan to resurrect an ancient disease, one that could spell the end of all human life. In his attempts to prevent it, he is joined by CDC agents Dr. Nora Martinez (Mia Maestro) and Jim Kent (Sean Astin). Meanwhile, the attempts to resurrect this virus has not gone completely unnoticed, as pawn shop owner Professor Abraham Setrakian (David Bradley) has knowledge and history of this, and begins the fight to eradicate it as soon as possible. As the series goes on however, things get bad very quickly, and before you know it, Manhattan soon begins to turn ever more quickly into blood sucking Monsters, all led by the Mysterious Master (Robert Maillet and Robin Atkin Downes).

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As the series builds, more characters are introduced, such as Vasiliy Fet (Kevin Durand); a New York exterminator who begins to grow ever more suspicious about what is hiding in the sewers and Dutch Velders (Ruta Gedmintas); a computer hacker. Meanwhile, on the opposing side, there is Eldritch Palmer (Jonathan Hyde); a business tycoon who finances the operation to get the strain released, and Thomas Eichhorst (Richard Sammel), a former Nazi German Prison Camp officer who has a history with Setrakian, but is also The Master’s supposed number 2. And while all this is going on, there is an ex-con by the name of Gus (Miguel Gomez) who is soon beginning to realize there is more going on than what people are telling him.

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Since the first episode I have been hooked. I really do like this TV series. At the time it first came on I was watching Breaking Bad on DVD, but since this started, I turned my attention towards The Strain. I have been saying for years that my Favourite show on TV at the moment has been Rookie Blue (although my attention on that has gone more towards Castle this year), but right now I consider The Strain as the best TV show on at the moment. It is interesting, yet scary. It has really interesting characters (I particularly like the character of Dutch) and a story that just continues to open up and be explored as it continues. It has some terrifying moments and really scary creatures as well as a creepy but cool opening intro and theme from Ramin Djawadi.

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While the show has started airing its second series in the US, I take this as a note that the second series is not far from being shown in the UK. While I am a little annoyed that I still have to wait some time to watch the Second Season, I am still happy that I have the opportunity to watch the First Series all over again, starting with the Awesome Pilot Episode; Night Zero, Directed by Guillermo Del Toro himself. So, what are you waiting for? Turn on your sky box or whatever you watch TV on these days, set a record for The Strain on Watch beginning next week, watch the first series if you haven’t already and get set for the Magnificent return; of The Strain.

GENEPOOL





Breaking Bad Is Awesome

11 06 2014

Breaking Bad Season 1 Poster

You may remember several weeks ago I did a post on me not seeing Game of Thrones yet, and I still haven’t. Well since then I have got round to seeing another show that I hadn’t seen yet. That show is Breaking Bad, and I Love It. Now for those of you who have failed to notice this show, which does seem extremely unlikely as it has been talked about more than any show on TV at the moment, here is a brief explanation of what the show created by Vince Gilligan is about.

Breaking Bad Titles

Basically this bloke called Walter White played by Bryan Cranston is struggling chemistry teacher who is finding it hard to support his pregnant wife Skylar played by Anna Gunn and physically challenged son Walter Jr. played by RJ Mitte. Then when he gets a diagnosis confirming he has terminal lung cancer he decides to go to extremes to provide money for his family after he dies. He does so by cooking Crystal Meth with his former student Jesse Pinkman played by Aaron Paul. Simple? No! You see, Walters brother-in-law Hank played by Dean Norris is a Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) Agent who is slowly on the pursuit of some new players in town, but has no idea that they are Walt and Jesse. And in turn he is held back by his seemingly stupid and more selfish wife Marie played by Betsy Brandt. So with the stage now set, it is up to Walter under the pseudonym Heisenberg to cook and sell crystal meth while not only trying to evade the law and other dangerous people in the criminal underworld, but also hide the truth from his suspecting family. Will he succeed, who knows (apart from everyone who worked on and everyone who has already seen the show)?

With that out of the way, let’s move on. Yes, it did take me some time to watch the show as it wasn’t really on TV but on the computer instead, and as Netflix sounds like too much a commitment to just watch one show, I decided to watch the show via the amazing world of DVD’s. So I took the gamble of watching a show that I had known about for some years. I first heard about the show back when it first appeared on Five US in the UK with an advert, but I didn’t really watch it. But over the years I have been interested in reading the backs of the dvd’s to see what it is like, but it was not until very recently that I decided to give it a go. So I ordered the first season on DVD from Amazon (who do own Netflix) and sat down to watch it.

Heisenberg

I was pleasantly surprised. It’s unlike other TV shows as it really does solve every question. You begin with the first episode but instead of Walt’s idea just happening, his partner really does question him about why he wants to do it. Then when things heat up and cause more stuff to happen, the characters go round to solve it, things aren’t just swept under the carpet, they remain and the characters do have to live with the consequences of their actions as well as deal with them. It is through this that the show gets you gripped; so much so that you have no idea how long things have been going on for until you take a glance at the time. It’s almost impossible to take your eyes off the screen. This human nature side is not just related to the drugs side of the show though, but to the family and friends aspect also with issues in the family arising all the time from things like keeping secrets to money problems as well as the odd subject here and there.

Breaking Bad Main Cast

But there are also elements of comedy too as well as moments where generally nice moments happen as well as the in deep interesting parts, like the chemistry and money-making moments to the comedic but stressed relationship between Walt and Jesse as well as Hank and Marie, and Skylar…..and Marie. Then there are moments of violence, a lot of violence but it is a violent criminal world. So while both violent and dangerous there is a lighter side to all this but it is the human side of the show where the real action takes place. It also has a great opening title sequence.

At the time of writing this I have only reached midway or so of the second series, But I am enjoying it, a lot and aim to continue watching it until either it ends, or it starts getting boring. I like the character Jane played by Krysten Ritter, she has only appeared briefly but already appears to be a strong character and look forward to more appearances from her, and there is also the constant appearance from a Pink Teddy Bear. As for those who have yet to see it as well, I really do recommend it, At the moment I would say it’s quite easily one of my top 5 Favourite American TV Series, at around about the second, possibly first mark, but it has to compete with 24, which is also another Awesome TV Show.

24 (Fox - 2001)

GENEPOOL

24 (TV series)









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