Packing a (period) piece.
Hey, you know what network has the best original TV shows going right now? It’s not HBO. It’s HBO’s horny, hyperactive cousin, Cinemax. I’ve been a Max devotee since Strike Back Season 2 blew me away, with the unsheathed, pulpy id of Banshee close behind. Even The Max’s dalliance with gothic horror–the bizarre, engrossing Outcast–was a humdinger.
Now the network is back with something else daring and unique, a show unlike anything else you’ll find anywhere. Quarry is based on the the potboiler mystery novels by Max Allan Collins, which tells the story of a recently returned Vietnam vet and the trouble he finds in his hometown in Memphis.
Mac Conway (Logan Marshall-Green) is back after serving two years in Vietnam. He returns under a cloud of controversy as his unit had been fingered for war crimes. The life as he knows it has evaporated; his wife Joni (Jodi Balfour) was unfaithful, no one wants to hire him for work and, worse, his best friend and former squadmate gets himself killed trying to be a hitman.
Mac finds himself drawn into the seedy world of contact killing, pressed into working for a mysterious man known only as The Broker, forced to pay down his friend’s debt and save his family. As you can imagine, this leads to all manner of unsavory situation and domestic mishap and before it all ends, Quarry will have to face his own demons.
And there are demons aplenty in this broody, atmospheric series, an eight-episode tour de force that kept me utterly transfixed the whole time. There weren’t humongous explosions or colorful villains or outlandish plot threads or sex galore or any of the elements you might think would characterize a Cinemax show. No, Quarry is a hardboiled, gritty, ultra-realistic drama, a tale of a broken man with a damaged soul who can’t extricate himself from his violent past or the promise of a violent future.
The acting is top-shelf throughout, headlined by Marshall-Green as the tortured anti-hero (and I mean anti) and Balfour as his desperate wife. The two are exceptional talents and their relationship offers as compelling a caricature of a troubled, but loving marriage. Their connection is the emotional core of the show and it works brilliantly.
The thrust of the narrative is Quarry’s attempts to negotiate the dark corridors of his new, bloody profession, while trying to preserve his relationship with his wife. Meanwhile, he’s being tracked by a tenacious law officer and The Broker is funneling him towards deadlier and deadlier contracts. It’s all set against the backdrop of the racial powder-keg that is ’70s Memphis.
Quarry takes it time to let its plot breathe; this isn’t a slam-bang action thrill ride. But hang with it and you’ll be richly rewarded with some of the very best performances on television, a unique setting, a story that builds gravity a it rolls on and, finally, a one-shot Vietnam War flashback sequence that rivals True Detective’s gold standard continuous sequence.
Great Blu-ray set: pristine video (1.78:1, 1080p) and audio (DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1) joined by audio commentaries, deleted scenes, featurettes, music videos and interviews.