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Category:    Home > Reviews > Thriller > Action > Telefilm > Spy > Terrorism > LIterature > Adventure > Robbery > Heist > TV Mini-Series > B > Hijacked (2011/Anchor Bay Blu-ray w/DVD)/Strike Back: Cinemax Season One (2011/HBO Blu-ray w/DVD Set)/Treasure Island (2011 TV Mini-Series/Gaiam Vivendi Blu-ray)

Hijacked (2011/Anchor Bay Blu-ray w/DVD)/Strike Back: Cinemax Season One (2011/HBO Blu-ray w/DVD Set)/Treasure Island (2011 TV Mini-Series/Gaiam Vivendi Blu-ray)


Picture: B- & C+/B- & C/B-     Sound: B- & C+/B & C+/B-     Extras: D/C+/C     Main Programs: C-/C+/C



Here is a selection of recent TV productions that have a mainstream U.S. presence, though they are not totally U.S. productions.



Brandon Nutt’s spy telefilm Hijacked (2011) may feature real-life fighter Randy Couture as an agent trying to stop a plot to grab a plane with rich people to get ransom money, but it is Vinnie Jones who steals every scene and should have actually been the lead, save the fact that the teleplay is flat, predictable and action lame.  Jones could do better and so could we, but the terrorist group “The Tribe” also pales in comparison to anything we would think of as such in real life.


Action is choreographed unmemorably, the music is overdone and the acting is a very mixed bag.  We never have any sympathy for just about anyone here and many of them seem bored, a condition which is catchy when you watch.  Add the lack of energy and it just plays like everything we have seen before in a cut-rate package deal.  For Couture fans only, there are no extras.



On the other hand, we have more realistic terrorists (though Islamic) in Strike Back: Cinemax Season One (2011), which actually turns out to be the second season of the show as produced overseas.  I guess if we see the first season, they’ll issue them as lost episodes or do a flashback season.


The spy organization here is known as Section 20, hunting down criminal mastermind Latif, who is planning a massive public terror attack.  Michael Stonebridge (Philip Winchester) is the main agent, but the Section wants to call in a U.S. Delta Force player named Damien Scott (Sullivan Stapleton) who was actually discharged on the eve of the Iraq Invasion and may have information to help them that no one else has.


He eventually gets involved and not a moment too soon as there is more trouble and they have more activity going on in the case than even they estimated, so they have to figure out what the murder plan is, what weapons will be used and who is who before it is too late.  Instead of a police procedural, this is enough of an action series to separate it from that boring cycle and enough of a spy series to overcome much of the military storyline genre-wise that would make it just another action series.


It is also in the graphic side in violence shown, but is also a first for spy TV of any kind to show an operative being so explicitly engaged in sex and often.  Yes, they don’t just go around and do spy-fi speak and act sexless, they are sexual human beings.  But instead of settling for the usual, the show is trying to be something different and in this season, the show’s set up starts out slowly (would watching the original first season first helped make this work better?) before it gets started, but it really started to add up when it finally got going.  U.S. viewers will recognize its tendencies to seem like the hit TV series 24, but it seems even more like some of the older ITC Spy shows like Department S or Avengers (U.K.) creator Brian Clemens’ hit police drama The Professionals.


However, the one show it really reminded me of was the little-seen, short-lived 1999 – 1989 Saracen (all these shows including this one are reviewed elsewhere on this site) series that was also in the mode of those older shows and had some edge to it.  In both, a top active spy is paired with a former U.S. Delta Force member who does not always get along with him to battle against similarly hardcore, deadly opponents, a criminal mastermind and has some of the same exact problems.


With that said, the show is better than the highly overrated Alias and the best attempt to do such a show in a while as this season ended better than it began, so we’ll have to see how this carries over into the already-produced next season.  The supporting cast is solid and leads are a solid, convincing match.  Even if the show does not work out, lasts or becomes more popular, the makers have given the underrated, underdone genre an undeniable step forward and that makes this set of 10 episodes (over four Blu-ray discs and 2 double-sided DVDs) worth your time, especially if you like this kind of action.


Extras include Digital Copy for PC and PC portable devices and 5 audio commentaries on select episodes with various cast members.



Finally we have yet another production of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island (2011) in a new TV Mini-Series version from classic Music Video director Steve Barron who breaks the book into the two parts here and features Eddie Izzard as Long John Silver (including his origins) and a decent cast, plus work in key roles by Donald Sutherland and Elijah Wood.  There is some money here and it does not look bad, but it tries to be too much like the book, too much like “literature” and the acting too often does not seem like the period it is taking place in.  Add Barron’s Music Video tendencies and this turns out to be very uneven when it could have actually not been bad.  Except for fans of the book and actors, this will disappoint all around and I would rather watch the 1934 Victor Fleming feature film version instead for starters.


Extras include a feature length audio commentary track by Barron and Izzard, a trailer, three Making Of featurettes and Cast Interviews section.



The 1080p 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image transfers on all three Blu-rays are about even, though I would give Strike Back a slight edge in overall quality and consistency over it ten episodes, but al have been stylized down one way or another and additional issues occur when too much digital work is used or we get degraded digital video footage in the modern day thrillers.  Strike Back and Hijacked also include anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image on their lower-definition DVD versions are not as good, with Strike Back being much softer than expected and the softest of the five performers on the list.  I cannot remember the last time an HBO DVD looked this soft.


The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mix on Hijacked and DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix on Island maybe new recordings, but they lack consistent soundfields and have can some of their sound towards the front speakers in ways that disappoint, but the DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix on Strike Back has a consistent soundfield throughout all ten of its episodes, has the best fidelity and best recording qualities of the three programs making it the sonic champ on this list.  Strike Back and Hijacked both have DVDs with lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 mixes that are on par with each other and no match for their Blu-ray counterparts.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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