Summer 2015 Review: The Brink

24 Jun

The Brink

The thing about the Brink is, well, it’s not very funny. Now, that in and of itself isn’t necessarily a problem. Ballers, for all of its issues, clearly isn’t particularly interested in being funny, so its lack of laughs isn’t really one of its faults. The Brink, though, desperately wants to be funny. Going for something like Dr. Strangelove meets Homeland, The Brink really wants to be a trenchant modern satirical take on Middle Eastern finger-on-the-button terrorism politics. The probably is, well, it’s not funny. The characters are oversized and a bit much, and despite the strong cast of actors throughout, the lines just don’t land. If the writing doesn’t work, it’s hard to build on.

Pakistan is the setting. An unprepared for and out-of-nowhere regime change takes place, placing a crazy fanatic in charge of the Pakistani government. The American government and the president must decide what course of action to take – a preemptive violent strike, or cautious diplomacy. The stakes are as high as they get, dealing with a nuclear power. This is satire though, so the premise is very serious, but the execution is very silly. Primary characters include Tim Robbins as Secretary of State Walter Larson. Larson is a boozer and a philanderer who doesn’t seem to know his stuff, but when thrown in the heat of the war room with the president and the rest of the cabinet, seems to possess some innate competence, attempting to counsel the president against war, while getting into petty spats with his more militaristic colleague the Secretary of Defense.

Jack Black plays a womanizing low-level bureaucrat who could not and would not be more irrelevant to any meaningful lever of government if not for that fact that he ended up trapped behind enemy lines when the Pakistan power play went down. He’s in the company of Aasif Mandvi,, playing Pakistani cabdriver Rafiq Massoud. Paulo Schreiber portrays an enterprising pilot on an air force carrier, selling much needed drugs which help cadets, himself included, stay awake. He’s sent on a dangerous mission at the end of the episode.

Basically, The Brink doesn’t have the bite or the laughs to make it work on its own terms. I know what it’s going for, and the events it mirrors do feel very real – but relevance doesn’t make it good.

And, I have to say, for a show that’s not Ballers, it’s also surprisingly male forward. There aren’t troubling female characters as much as there just aren’t that many. This is part of what seems to be kind of the men block on HBO with True Detective, Ballers, and The Brink airing back to back to back.

Will I watch it again? No. At least not immediately. I’d like to like it. It’s on HBO and it’s got a bunch of actors I like, and there might be something here. But the first episode was a disappointment.

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