vt CH:OS:EN Season 2
US / ~130 minutes (6 episodes of 21–23 minutes) / color / Dissident, DiVide, Lifeboat, Sony Dir: Ben Ketai Pr: Amy Kim Scr: Evan Charnov, Ben Ketai Story: Ben Ketai, Ryan Lewis Cine: Tim Burton Cast: Chad Michael Murray, Sarah Roemer, Nicky Whelan, Caitlin Carmichael, Joey Luthman, Milo Ventimiglia, Brandon Routh, Evan Arnold, Brett Davern, Joey Kern, Shaun Baker, Cody Williams, Kyle Mattocks.
Morning at Max’s — how the other half lives.
The second Chosen story has the same premise as the first, about which I posted in September. Thanks to modern surveillance technology, a pervasive group of secret masters, The Watchers, is able to force us lesser mortals to play a lethal game. An individual will receive a box containing some meaningless clockwork (a reminder of the passage of time?), a handgun and a photograph. The recipient of this package must kill the person shown in the photograph and named in its caption within 72 hours or the recipient’s loved ones will be slaughtered. And, of course, there are other “hunters” who’ve been given the task of killing the recipient, themselves operating under the same rules. In the first series we followed the fate of the Mitchell family—Ian (Ventimiglia), Laura (Whelan) and their young daughter Ellie (Carmichael)—and they form the secondary of the two plot strands contained in Season 2.
As with the first season, the six episodes of this serial were released almost simultaneously; as they form a cohesive whole, I’ve elected to treat this as if it were a single movie—which is presumably how it’ll be viewed when the DVD comes along. At the moment it can be watched on Sony’s Crackle site. I couldn’t get the player there to work with my Firefox browser and, although Internet Explorer got the damn’ thing to play, I still had all sorts of issues—such as “Pause” working only sometimes. Since either the player or Internet Explorer or the combination of both devoured resources, making everything else on the computer add new layers of meaning to the word “sluggish,” by the time I got to the end of Episode 6 I was . . . well, put it this way, any positive benefits of the extensive product placements in the movie for Sony gadgetry had been comprehensively nullified.
The six episodes are titled thus:
- Second Chances
- Heroes and Villains
- Right At Your Door
- Collision Course
- Protect Your Own
As hinted above, there are two plot strands which play in parallel before coming together for an ending that clearly presages the making of a Season 3 somewhere down the line.
Avery (Sarah Roemer).
The main story concerns Jacob Orr (Murray), a trained engineer who, because of his pride, is currently working as a Los Angeles bartender. He’s just about ready to leave a party at the home of his old friend Max Gregory (Routh), an immensely wealthy surveillance-equipment manufacturer, when he’s befriended by attractive hospital physician Dr. Avery Sharp (Roemer); she gives him her phone number and he promises to call. As he drives home he discovers his car contains one of The Watchers’ boxes. When he stops the car at a supermarket parking lot, a man (Arnold) appears with a gun, weeping with apologies as he tries to kill him. Just then another man with a gun arrives; the two shoot it out as Jacob escapes.
At home he spends some time with his crippled kid brother King (Luthman), then heads back to parking lot where the shootout occurred. The man who tried to kill him is still there; this time, though, rather than shooting he explains something of the game’s rules. Then an ambulance arrives and the EMTs brusquely take the man away; made suspicious, Jacob follows and finds himself in the very hospital where Avery works. She believes his wild story because, she tells him, a couple of weeks ago she treated someone for gunshot wounds who told a very similar tale.
Jacob decides to acquaint himself with his designated victim, bank manager Leslie Brewer (Kern), to see if they can work something out. As Brewer babbles about free checking, though, Jacob starts feeling iller and iller. He staggers away from the bank and calls Avery for help. She deduces that Brewer gave him poison in the complimentary bottle of water he produced at the bank. Soon after she’s managed to flush the poison out of his system, Brewer turns up, prepared to slay not just Jacob but Avery and King. Luckily Jacob is able to turn the tables and . . .
Brewer (Kern) appears suddenly in the Orrs’ kitchen and sticks up crippled King Orr (Joey Luthman).
There are many, many more twists and turns in this strand of the movie. Although I was never actually bored by these, and a few of them did jolt me in my seat, others—including a couple of the important “reveals” at the end of the movie—seemed rather too predictable. There was also an utterly gratuitous and in context idiotic sex scene between Avery and Jacob—well, unless you live in movie land, where outrageously beautiful women are always impulsively tearing off their clothes and throwing themselves at near-strangers. Still, Murray offers us a hero whom it’s very easy to like, Roemer has a very lovely presence, and Kern is more than adequately oily and loathsome—a man proud of having been in the game for four and half years, killing untold numbers of people, and, he believes, earning the admiration of The Watchers.
Jacob finally decides that the worm must turn.
In the minor strand, we follow the fate of the Mitchells, the family at the center of Season 1. We first find Ellie and Laura holed up at a crappy motel. Ellie, having seen the savagery of which her parents are capable, is terrified of her mother and, when Laura goes out to phone Ian, runs off . . . but straight into the clutches of a giant Santa Claus-like trucker (Williams). The trucker proves, of course, to be a Hunter in the game; he proposes to rape Laura then murder both her and Ellie. Ian, as you’d expect in a movie like this, arrives in the nick of time to save his womenfolk. He’s gotten hold of a car that lacks GPS, computers or any other such gadgetry—i.e., one that should pass below the technological radar of The Watchers—and the family drives off to the mountains to find refuge in a remote cabin that doesn’t even have mains electricity. Surely they’ll be safe from detection here—or maybe not, because the next box The Watchers feed to Jacob Orr contains a photograph of the Mitchell family . . .
Ellie, terrified of Laura, locks herself into the motel bathroom.
There are some very effectively done sequences in the movie. Lots of low-angled shots are used to convey Jacob’s disorientation in the sequence where, poisoned, he’s staggering through the streets. (The music is, as elsewhere, a tad heavy-handed here, which somewhat dilutes the effect of the cinematography.)
Jacob under the influence of his mystery sickness.
The luring of and then assault on Laura by the supposedly affable trucker has a chilling brutality about it that’s likely to linger in the mind. Again, when Jacob makes it to the apartment of the man Avery treated for gunshot wounds, Paul Minningham (Davern), we get the double shock of his discovering the head of Paul’s sister in the fridge and then, immediately, the bursting into the apartment of yet another Hunter (Mattocks), machine gun in hand; this in turn is promptly followed by a good rooftop chase. It’s definitely the most exciting action sequence of the piece. The conclusion of the movie is, by contrast, an admirably dark plummet into the noir abyss.
What happened to Paul’s sister.
Overall, then, assuming that you don’t find the Crackle video player as much of a struggle as I did, this is probably worth two hours of your time. For myself, because of that struggle, this isn’t an experience I’m likely to repeat; it’s a very great pity that Sony/Crackle has decided no longer to crosspost its videos to YouTube.
There are some sumptuous shots of the skies over LA. Here’s a sunrise.