Hap And Leonard: Season 1
James Purefoy, Michael Kenneth Williams, Christina Hendricks
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…a good story well told.
Having impressed festival audiences with their feature film adaptation of cult author, Joe R. Lansdale’s Texas-noir thriller Cold In July, director, Jim Mickle, and screenwriter, Nick Damici, return to the well once more. This time, they’re bringing Lansdale’s unique combination of laconic humour, unforgettable characters, and brutal violence to the small screen with a cracking take on Savage Season, the first of a long-running series of novels featuring down-home detectives, Hap Collins and Leonard Pine.
The scene is set in East Texas, 1988. Hap Collins (British actor, James Purefoy, sporting a pretty spot-on accent) is a former conscientious objector who spent time in federal prison for refusing to serve in Vietnam. His best friend, however, did serve; Leonard Pine (Michael Kenneth Williams) is black, gay, angry as hell, and prone to delivering terrible violence upon whoever raises his ire. The two are grappling with their most recent foray into unemployment when Trudy (Christina Hendricks), Hap’s ex-wife, swans back into their lives with a proposition involving a sunken stash of cash somewhere in a nearby river. If the two can find it, they’ll split it 50/50 – half for Trudy and the posse of wannabe revolutionaries she’s partnered up with, who want to use the money to start a grass roots uprising. Further complicating things is the presence of a psychotic drug dealer (Jimmi Simpson) and his Amazonian girlfriend/enforcer (Pollyanna McIntosh), who would much rather take the money for themselves, and don’t much care how many bodies they have to pile up to accomplish that.
Hap And Leonard is a good story well told. The plot is straight forward, but the joy comes in watching these characters bounce off each other and crack skulls. Purefoy’s Hap is a charming homespun philosopher, averse to violence but perfectly capable of it should the need arise. Williams’ Leonard, however, is a hair-trigger menace who spends most of his time daring the world to take a swing at him. Polar opposites, they’re nonetheless tighter than brothers and tackle whatever the world throws at them as a team – an arrangement threatened by Hendricks in full-on southern-fried femme fatale mode.
Tonally, the most obvious comparison is Justified, the recently wrapped series based on Elmore Leonard’s Raylan Givens character. Hap And Leonard isn’t quite that good, but it certainly operates in similar territory, taking place in a world of rural poverty where everyone has a quip on their lips and a gun on their hips, and violence is sudden, shocking, and terribly final. As a writer, Lansdale is always fun to read but tough to pigeonhole in a genre, and that has carried over here; Hap And Leonard combines crime, comedy, action, and occasionally violence that borders on the horrific to come up with a flavour that might share similarities with other properties, but is nonetheless very much its own thing.
The series ticks along nicely for six episodes, which is enough time to let things develop and breathe, but not long enough to outstay its welcome – a useful corrective in a time when so many series seem to view length as its own merit. Still, if this blast of sweaty southern adventure leaves you wanting more, there’s a sequel hook left dangling that promises a second season if the numbers add up. Bring on Mucho Mojo.