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Burn Notice: Season 1 (Review)

Burn Notice

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

BURN Notice combines the style of Miami Vice with the thrills of stalwart franchises such as 007 and The A-Team. It’s glitzy, fun… but with a tough edge. And it comes highly recommended.

Jeffrey Donovan stars as blacklisted spy Michael Weston who, after 10 years of serving his country as a covert operative, suddenly finds himself facing every spy’s nightmare. While in the middle of a dangerous mission in Nigeria, Michael’s contact informs him he has been ‘burned’, which basically place his life in danger.

Barely making it out of Nigeria alive, Michael winds up in Miami and sets about trying to find out who issued his burn notice, and why he was blacklisted, so that he can put his life back together. But in order to survive Miami and fund his own personal investigation, Michael enlists the help of the only two ‘friends’ he has: ex-IRA operative and his ex-girlfriend Fiona (Gabrielle Anwar) and Sam Axe (Bruce Campbell), a washed-out military intelligence contact whom the FBI are using to keep an eye on Michael.

He’s also forced to deal with the family he went half-way around the world to get away from, particularly his mother Madeline (Sharon Gless), who couldn’t be happier to have him back in town.

Now stuck in Miami, Michael must confront the bad memories of his childhood and repair the broken relationships he once left behind, while taking on random jobs to finance his lifestyle.

Given that Burn Notice exists at a time when James Bond has suddenly rediscovered his ruthless streak and all eyes are focused on the genre-defining Jason Bourne franchise, it does take a little while to get used to the lighter, more glib tone of the series.

Donovan, in particular, is initially difficult to warm to and some of his early voice-overs are a little too smug for their own good, while British actress Anwar spends the first few episodes sporting a very dodgy Irish accent.

Give it time, though, and Burn Notice soon delivers. Its humour is sharp, its set pieces well orchestrated, and there’s a nice mix of comedy and brutality. When Michael is tested, Donovan makes it clear why you wouldn’t necessarily want to get on the wrong side of him, while Bruce Campbell is consistently superb as his washed-up colleague and friend, who has a knack for getting out of the most awkward situations. It’s great that Campbell finally has a new role of worth to sink his teeth into.

Anwar, for her part, overcomes the initial problems posed by her dodgy accent to provide an alluring, but sassy presence who is more than capable of mixing it with the men.

Burn Notice also makes keen use of its sunny Miami locations, which help to ensure that the show comes pre-packed with plenty of sex appeal (there are numerous random shots of women in bikinis as if to emphasize this point!).

And plot-lines, too, become increasingly more absorbing as the stakes surrounding Michael’s status and safety gradually increase. The final two episodes of season 1 are particularly exciting as they find Michael and company playing in a game that quickly gets away from them.

Indeed, the ending sets things up well for season 2… which already feels like a mouth-watering prospect. Burn Notice really does deliver the goods.

Find out more about the DVD release

Certificate: 15
UK DVD Release: March 2, 2009