Hit or Sh**: Cinemax’s QUARRY
You can’t throw a rock these days without hitting a TV period drama, so it was no surprise that the first pilot I stumbled upon for this upcoming television season was about crime on the bayou in the 70s. QUARRY looks and feels like it was meant to be Cinemax’s direct answer to AMC’s BREAKING BAD and Netflix’s NARCOS, with the central commodity this time being the most potent drug of all: murder.
QUARRY opens in Memphis, 1972. Mac (Logan Marshall-Green), a marine, returns home from his second tour in Vietnam after his unit is accused of massacring a village. Though he is found innocent, Mac is clearly still suffering psychologically from his experience in the war, and thanks to the negative press from his trial, nobody wants to offer him a job. Nobody except “The Broker” (Peter Mullan), who offers Mac a small fortune to become a hitman. Of course, the job goes south and the money goes missing, so Mac is forced to become The Broker’s indentured angel of death to pay off his debt.
“He seemed legit!”
The premise is as simple as it is effective, but there’s a lot of QUARRY’s feature length pilot that feels like it was taken from a checklist, rather than a screenplay. Guns, tits, murder, and sex are all hastily placed within the first ten minutes, satisfying all the basic requirements for premium television. Much of the dialogue seems edgy for edginess’s sake, and don’t even get me started on no-name antagonists with template titles like “The Broker.” But most bizarrely of all, the opening begins in media res with a scene that isn’t even addressed during the episode. It’s like QUARRY wanted to begin with a bang as big as BLOODLINE or BREAKING BAD, without actually making it work within the context of that episode.
But for all that QUARRY fumbles, it also kicks ass in equal measure. The show is a beauty in motion, with meticulously framed scenes and striking shots. Taking a page from JACOB’S LADDER, Mac’s PTSD manifests in some unnerving ways, lending the show a rather disturbed tone. Through visual metaphor alone, QUARRY is already starting to hint that Mac might not be the most reliable of protagonists, and it will be interesting to see how this affects his, and the audience’s, perception in episodes to come.
Sorry buddy, you missed Burning Man by a week
While some of the aforementioned lines were cringe-inducing, there are still flashes of brilliance to be seen in the writing as well. Seemingly innocuous cues are planted early on, only to be paid off spectacularly later. The ending in particular is easily one of the most satisfying revenge scenes I’ve seen, and we’re only one episode in. Additionally, while the central plot will clearly focus on Mac’s descent into the underworld of contract killing, the seeds have effectively been planted for a swath of B stories, including the deteriorating relationship between Mac and his wife (Jodi Balfour) and family, the public investigation into the bodies Mac leaves behind, and most intriguing of all, what really happened to Mac in Vietnam.
Though QUARRY often comes across as the edgelord manifesto of a teenager who played a little too much HOTLINE MIAMI, there are plenty of indicators that there is something incredible waiting just below the surface. The pilot is far from perfect, but that doesn’t mean it is without moments of perfection. Though nothing in this quarry is set in stone, there is hope that it’ll hit bedrock soon.
Verdict: Sh** Probation
QUARRY airs on Cinemax on Fridays