Saturday, 28 January 2017


The other box-set I've been watching, albeit in a half-hearted way, is called "Startup". It's on Sparkle, which is the Sony streaming service also available in the UK via Amazon. It's about a group of people trying to start a Bitcoin style cyber-currency, largely built upon the proceeds of crime.

Compared with the stylisation of LA/Santa Monica-based Goliath, this one fails to hold real interest. There's a Miami-based plot that includes gangsters, guns, the dynamics of successful Cubans, less-well-off Haitians and the alternative Wall Street in the form of Miami's money laundering capital around Brickell Street.

It should make up a pretty good plotline, but somehow in amongst the sexed up scenes they have dropped Martin (Dr Watson) Freeman. He plays an implausible American cop who drinks fashionable coffee, cooks English-style sausage and bacon breakfast and wears his gun on a hip holster like a cowboy. They make him run about a bit but his role (like his American accent) seems to have a weird style over substance for much of the narrative. It's almost as if the writers are having a bit of snide fun with his character.

It feels like there was an awkward plot point that needed to be included and then the producers decide to do some stunt casting to appeal to the Brits. It is shame, because I thought Freeman did a decent job playing that out-of-control character in the Fargo I series a while back.

And unlike True Detective, Goliath or even Mr Robot, the Miami sense of place is far less evident. Sure they signpost a few locations from a rooftop and clip in some iffy over-saturated postcard style film, but it doesn't have that intimacy of place of a really good American crime series.

I won't give away plot points except to say that even some of the more dramatic events feel as if they have been filmed after rote-learning some camera angles. A decent Coen Brothers or similar would have found more twists.

Even the other central plot around computer software is left indistinct (compared with the precision in Mr Robot). Kind of "Here comes the science part".

And, I know, Freeman is not being Dr Watson, but some of the things he does as a cop wouldn't stand up very well to modern policing detection methods.

To my analysis, the main storyline almost stands up without the whole Freeman line, except for the need of an obvious point to create the tension in the story driven by the other three very complementary actors. There's large chunks with them doing their startup fundraising and playing off against other recognisable American actors who actually do hold attention. Indeed the pacing of the three American lead actors is completely different from the slowed down moodiness and long gazes of Freeman's scenes. Kind of we've paid for him, let's give him screen time.

I'm about half way through this and will watch the rest, but I can't help thinking that with a potentially strong premise this could have been so much better.

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