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Chris Ryan's Strike Back - First two episodes reviewed

Chris Ryan's Strike Back

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

THE first two hours of explosive new Sky1 drama Chris Ryan’s Strike Back made for exciting viewing even if the politics and the script sometimes proved laughably gung-ho and naive.

Based on the popular best-seller by ex-SAS man Ryan, the six-part series follows former Special Forces man John Porter (Richard Armitage) as he attempts to atone for an apparent mistake that saw him being kicked out of the army in 2003 following a bungled rescue operation.

His chance comes in the present day when he is re-activated to join the hunt for kidnapped TV reporter Katie Dartmouth (Orla Brady) in the Middle East, before she is beheaded by an extremist group.

And so the ensuing two hours finds Porter in a race against time to beat the clock and restore his reputation.

So far, so 24 meets Bourne and Green Zone… but Strike Back does at least prove that Britain can deliver the type of small screen big budget shows to compete with its US counterparts.

The first two hours often made for thrilling viewing… especially during the final 45 minutes as Porter infiltrated the extremist group and attempted to extract Katie to safety.

The finale, meanwhile, set up an intriguing scenario from which to develop the subsequent episodes… as Porter uncovered an unlikely traitor in the Army’s midst and accepted the offer of re-instatment to pursue his enemy.

Strike Back has plenty working in its favour, not least an engaging central performance from former Spooks star Armitage, who comfortably juggles rugged charisma with no-nonsense physicality. In some ways, he resembles a slightly more clean-cut Hugh Jackman (from Australia).

A strong ensemble line-up also includes the ever-reliable likes of Andrew Lincoln, Jodhi May and Colin Salmon in key roles, lending weight and gravitas to the occasionally poorly written script.

Indeed, the only shame surrounding Strike Back‘s otherwise high production values is the loose nature of the script, which all too often reduces characters to stereotype and is a little too testosterine fuelled for its own good.

So far, it lacks the tautness of 24 or the complex political intrigue of a Bourne movie, even though the foundations have possibly been laid for future episodes.

In that sense, it’s also a blunt but no less effective instrument, which entertains in spite of its shortcomings.

It should therefore be extremely good fun to tune in for the remaining four episodes, as Porter heads back to Iraq and Afghanistan on various missions while trying to expose the real villain of the piece.

Read our interview with Strike Back’s Dhaffer L’Abidine

Chris Ryan’s Strike Back is on Sky1 on Wednesday nights from 9pm. This review relates to the opening two episodes on May 5, 2010.

  1. Have you been reading my mind? I thought everything was done well, especially Richard Armitage as Porter, but the weakness was in the mundane quality of the writing in setting up what was nevertheless an interesting premise and a gripping plot.

    Penny    May 7    #
  2. Richard Armitage is seriously fit… not sure about the Hugh Jackman reference though. And it’s a little harsh to say it lacks the tautness of 24. It felt more real than one of Jack Bauer’s OTT days to me.

    Amanda    May 7    #
  3. This was a cliched pile of rubbish; basically Ultimate Force regurgitated. Armitage is wooden, as ever.

    Sandy    May 8    #
  4. Rubbish! This is far superior to Ultimate Force! And Armitage is carrying off a far better character to the one in U.F. I can’t wait to see the next few episodes!

    Al    May 8    #
  5. Armitage has been playing the same angst ball male bimbo for too long. The book this is based on is absolutely rubbish as well. The same writer produced Bodies; this isn't a patch on it.

    Terry    May 9    #
  6. Ooh, Richard Armitage can act! It’s about time he was given a role with some meat to it. In Spooks, he does a great job but his character can’t shoot straight. ;) Strike Back is a shoot-em-up thrill ride, and yet Richard Armitage gives some layering to the action hero character.

    Margaret    May 16    #
  7. Yes he`s got the right meaty role here; in this turkey. And as for layers in his character, they`re more like the rings in wood. He always looks as if he`s got a bad smell under his nose; it`s the lousy scripts he`s given. Deservedly.

    Jojo    May 19    #