It is interesting to note that two of the stars of “Preacher,” the new series based on the uber violent western comic, both come from the Marvel-verse; Dominic Cooper and Ruth Negga both have connections with SHIELD. For those in the know about British telly, it is pretty cool that Cassidy the Irish vampire is being played by a “Dingle from Emmerdale” Joseph Gilgun. In a show that dares to explode Tom Cruise off camera the humor is high and international.
For this particular AMC offering, co-written, co-directed and co-produced by “Preacher” comic fan Seth Rogen it almost feels like a case of the British taking over Hollywood. Cooper and Gilgun are both from England and Negga, despite being born in Ethiopia, was raised in Ireland from the age of four. Lucy Griffiths (Emily) hails from Brighton, Sussex and Tom Brook (Fiore) is from London.
One of the only “home grown” actors in the regular cast is that versatile and prolific character actor W. Earl Brown who plays Sheriff Hugo Root. Although Donnie actor Derek Wilson is also a “local lad.”
“Preacher” is easily one of the most eagerly anticipated new series to air this year. The violent western comic with protagonist Jessie Custer (Cooper) who wants to be a “good man” despite his inherent love for violence and his ability to deal it out almost lovingly.
The pilot contains some brilliant set pieces. Something big and powerful has beaded to earth. A preacher in Africa talks about a huge war and the big power from space invades his body. The results, after he declares himself the chosen one, are visceral and far reaching.
Custer presides over the local All Saints Congregational Church. (There is a gag with the church sign that will be familiar to anyone who has ever watched Fawlty Towers or YouTube.) The Texas setting is as country as ticks and chigger bites on one’s ankles, and redneck enough to evoke a slight feeling of revulsion when getting too close to the local populace.
“I just Abe Lincoln’d that squirrel.”
Negga is Tulip, Custer’s squeeze from the comic world, and she is tough, deadly and possibly psychotic. She also has a touch of MacGyver in her, with the help of two farm kids, one being the boy who thinks dead bodies are “Awesome! Awesome!” Tulip manufactures a bazooka with tin cans, tape, corn-shine and and metal toys.
(Purists may grumble that the AMC version has made Tulip black, but seriously? Negga is not only an actress with an excellent pedigree she is gorgeous as well. Who really cares?Ruth was convincingly dangerous and lovelorn in seconds. Live with it, the best actress won over the comic’s origin.)
Gilgun is brilliant as Cassidy. The actor, who got his start on the long running English soap Coronation Street and learned all about onscreen violence in This Is England (both on the big screen and small) proved to be a convincing “stunt” artist in his mile high fight on the air liner. (A highlight in the pilot.)
The fight choreography is spot on in “Preacher.” The fight scene in the bar, where the preacher manages to despatch a wife beater and his snotty henchmen with a small, self-satisfied smile, is almost as magical as that high in the sky uneven battle between Cassidy and his would-be killers.
So too is the desperate struggle in the racing car between Negga’s character and the man who wants the map. Those not familiar with the comic may be surprised at the level of violence in the show. It is, however, not overly visceral nor is it in your face. At one point a limb is broken but the camera does not linger. It does not have to, the solitary glimpse is much more effective when combined with the victim’s drooling cries of pain.
Every thing about this series pilot screams comic or graphic novel. The framing of each shot, the colors and the scenarios all bring the viewer right into the world of “Preacher.” The humor is addictive. Cassidy’s landing after the fight on the jet, even after taking the precaution of grabbing a brolly and putting some blood in a bottle, leaves him the worse for wear and a curious bovine visitor pays the price.
That Seth Rogen’s hand is in the mix for this adaptation of “Preacher” is evident. The mixture of sly and overt comedy is there for all to see. The Tom Cruise explosion (One imagines hearing the superstar yelling “I am the Chosen One,” like the poor sod in Africa.) The battle between the politically incorrect former school mascot and the new PC one and the mayor being punched by a woman.
This is not, however, all about the “yuks.” It is the darkness, the violence and the innate western feel to this comic being brought to life. How can one not be enamored of a hero who gets a sense of relief when he beats the literal hell out of a few miscreants.
Tulip, Cassidy and Custer all live by the sword, so to speak, and there are a few others in the town of Annville (Anvil?Get it?) who look as though they all drink at the same trough, Hugo Root (Brown) for one and of course wife abuser Donnie is not bashful about beating someone he is not married to.
Dominic Cooper may be better known as Tony Stark’s poppa in the world of Marvel, but he looks to be right at home in those black cowboy boots, dog collar and rumpled hair. “Preacher” airs Sundays on AMC and the pilot can be watched right now on their site. Everything about this new series screams comic from the logo to the framing of each scene, tune in and bliss out.