BluRay/DVD Reviews

BLACK SAILS (Starz/Anchor Bay)

By • May 11th, 2015 •

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It would not be far off to think of this series as DEADWOOD on the high seas. It has the profanity, the hyperbolic character-types, the lesbianism, the various contingents fighting for supremacy. It has the excitement and manic energy of the settling of a new world. And it has a young character named John Silver: we know where that’s leading, and it’s fun to see it unfold.

1715. Pirates were despised by the world, so they declare war on the world. A melting pot for them – like the Hole in the Wall gang was for outlaws in the American West – is Jamaica, West Indies, where a brothel provides entertainment for the incoming ship-loads of horny men, and where all manner of intrigue and power struggles go on. Wisely, so that we can easily remember a great many characters, they’ve cast the series with actors many of whom resemble people we know. Eleanor (Hannah New) reminds one of Sharon Stone. Captain Flint (Toby Stephens) conjures Ridley Scott. Another brings to mind Ian McShane from DEADWOOD. Jessica Parker Kennedy reminds me of someone, but I can’t quite place it: maybe someone I dated… The feminine terminator is a bit like the statuesque Virginia Hey from THE ROAD WARRIOR. Luke Arnold could remind one of any number of young hunks. And so it goes.

There’s nudity and violence galore (a character is beaten literally to a bloody pulp in episode one, and sitting up against a wall, dead, he looks like John Carpenter’s ‘thing’ has gotten to him – there’s nothing left but blood where shoulders and a head once belonged), and lots of dueling dialogue scenes where the tide turns in an instant on characters who thought they’d entered the encounter holding all the cards. Meanwhile only one of them holds the treasure map, and again, any of us familiar with Robert Louis Stevenson will know who that lucky character is. (Incidentally, in the IMDB series writing credits list, Robert Louis Stevenson is credited, amusingly, with ‘unknown episodes.’)

But it also has its dull spots. Round table discussions go on too long, and too often, to pad the drama while we prepare for the next round of fireworks to go off. It’s no DEADWOOD, alas, but an enjoyable second tier pretender to the throne, with highly professional tech credits in support of the raucous fun.

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