Spike’s The Kill Point premieres this Sunday, with a two-hour presentation. I’ve been writing about The Kill Point now for nearly three months since I visited the set in Pittsburgh, and have amazingly managed to avoid Kill Point burnout. I’ve been screening a lot of comedies (many of them not so good) for our fall preview, and have been looking forward to finally watching The Kill Point DVD Spike sent me about a month ago. I watched it yesterday afternoon, and I’m happy to say that my three months of buildup for this series didn’t go to waste.
My review of the first episode is after the jump. I don’t think I included any spoilers or revealed any plot twists, but if you’re really concerned about learning too much before seeing it for yourself, you might want to wait until late Sunday night to read it.
If there’s interest from visitors to The Kill Point Countdown, I’ll post reviews and commentary of the remaining episodes. So let me know in the comments. And share what you thought of the show in the comments, too!
The Kill Point wastes no time in getting to the action. It’s a normal day at the Three Rivers Trust bank in Pittsburgh’s Market Square, but that’s going to change quickly. There’s an SUV with Mr. Wolf (John Leguizamo), Mr. Rabbit (Jeremy Davidson), Mr. Pig (Frank Grillo), Mr. Cat (JD Williams), Mr. Mouse (Leo Fitzpatrick) and their driver, Deke (Steve Cirbus), en route to the bank with loaded guns and nefarious plans. The crew busts into the bank, subdues the employees and customers, and grabs a load of cash. But as the crew is about to make a clean getaway, a female customer who happens to be an FBI agent emerges from the bank and opens fire on them. Immediately the crew is swarmed by armed security guards and police. Wolf and his team retreat back into the bank (Deke escapes out of Market Square), and what was a robbery is now a hostage situation and a standoff.
Enter police Capt. Horst Cali (Donnie Wahlberg), a hostage negotiator. Cali is cool and calm in his work, but he’s got nervous tendencies that come through in things like compulsively applying what appears to be antibacterial lotion on his hands. And he’s a stickler for proper grammar and punctuation, which results in a brilliant moment of comic relief when the situation is at its most intense. Cali is the best. He has a perfect record in hostage negotiations. But, like in a lot of cop shows, Cali’s efforts get hamstrung by the incompetence and arrogance of his superiors.
It doesn’t take long before Cali and his team learn the identities of the robbers, and discover that they’re dealing with ex-Marines who served in Iraq. (Since most viewers probably already know the robbers have military backgrounds, it’s good they don’t spend too much time in trying to surprise us with it.) As the show goes on, more and more details are revealed about Wolf’s military service record and what happened in the war that might have led to this desperate act.
We’re introduced to the hostages, and they become three-dimensional characters, not just props cowering in the corner with terror. One of them is Ashley Beck (Christine Evangelista), who is sort of the Paris Hilton of Pittsburgh, the daughter of one of Pittsburgh’s most wealthy and powerful men. She’s known publicly as a party girl, but she’s incredibly brave and resourceful. Mr. Pig instantly takes a liking to Ashley, and she’s not afraid to use it to her advantage. Ashley’s father (played by Tobin Bell) is going to play a bigger role in this series than I thought, as he’ll use his clout to influence police matters. Robby Sabian (Ethan Rosenfeld) is a teenage computer geek who’s a really likable wiseass. Bank manager Abe Shelton (Geoffrey Cantor) puts on an air of authority in front of the employees and customers, but has a total meltdown during the crisis. Wolf seems to trust and confide in a hostage named Chloe (Jennifer Ferrin). There are even a man and a woman (bank accountants, I think?) who jumped into a maintenance closet for a quickie when the robbery went down and are stuck in there, afraid to come out. Each of the hostages seem like they’re going to play a key part in the outcome, and the relationships they forge with each other and with the robbers provide some captivating storylines.
Wolf and Cali meet face to face in front of the bank in a particularly dramatic scene in which Wolf tells his story in a moving speech and display to the surrounding police, media and onlookers. He wins some sympathy and support from the public, and Cali now has to make sure Wolf isn’t viewed as a martyr.
Wolf and Cali deal with each other in a businesslike way: Cali sends some pizzas and bottles of water into the bank; Wolf sends a hostage out. There’s definitely a bond and a respect and an understanding that forms between the two. The duties, dangers and difficulties of being a cop and of being a soldier are not vastly different to them. It’s a conflict between two good guys forced to fight each other. They should just call a truce and go have a beer together, but it’s not going to end that way and we all know it.
The writing throughout is excellent, and the story moves along at a rapid pace. There’s this great balance between tension and levity throughout the episode. When Robby and his father break into a heated shouting match, Wolf breaks it up, saying, “Save the dysfunctional bullshit for the dinner table, all right? It’s not appropriate for a hostage siege, please.” And I especially want to thank writers James DeMonaco and Todd Harthan for introducing me to the phenomenon of “shit sand.”
I was worried as the pilot went along that I already knew too much about the series from being on set and talking with the cast, and that it would be tough to review it with a blank slate. But the first episode still threw a ton of surprises at me. Everything I knew about the series before actually seeing it was revealed in the first episode. Even the scenes they filmed while I was there were all in this episode. So now everything in subsequent episodes is going to be a complete surprise, and I can’t wait to see how this whole thing unfolds. To me, that’s the sign of a first-rate drama.