Let me start this review by stating that I've never read the comic books, so I can't testify as to whether or not this crazy, grotesque, violent and hilarious new AMC fantasy series is a faithful adaptation of the source material. But what I can tell you as an avid fantasy and horror fan is that the pilot left me with an immediate urge to watch the next episode.
Just so you know, this review won't contain anything story related, so if you want to learn what the show is about, read the IMDb synopsis or go to Wikipedia. I believe most films and TV-shows are enjoyed best without knowing anything other than maybe the genre, cast or filmmaker (plus, personally, I like to know about as many aspects as I can about the actual quality of the filmmaking itself). Oh, but maybe this: don't get frustrated if you don't immediately understand just what the heck is going on. The pilot introduces several key characters and important story elements by jumping around quite a bit and throwing you directly into the action, but we're clearly not meant to know and understand everything right from the start. So relax, be patient and have a little faith in showrunner Sam Catlin; the dude co-produced (or co-executive produced) 55 episodes of 'Breaking Bad', 10 of which he wrote, so he should know a little something about storytelling.
What becomes immediately evident in 'Preacher' is that the casting of the title role was a stroke of genius: Dominic Cooper ('The Devil's Double', 'Captain America: The First Avenger') makes for a fantastic lead. His charismatic but nuanced performance as conflicted preacher Jesse Custer was enough to convince me after only one episode that he will be able to carry this series. It's always a balancing act to portray this kind of character with just enough vulnerability to make him appear relatable and human but still have him come across as larger than life, and judging by what I've seen so far, Cooper manages to pull it off perfectly.
I'd say the cast in general is very solid, but the two actors that need to be mentioned most apart from Cooper's preacher are Ruth Negga in the role of Tulip and Joseph Gilgun who plays Cassidy. Both are wicked fun to watch (and obviously they're relishing their parts) and both have completely bonkers introduction scenes for their respective characters that will give audiences a taste of just what kind of crazy, ultra-violent mayhem we're in for with this new show.
Now just to get this straight: there are darkly comic moments abound in 'Preacher' but it is not a black comedy - nor is it as over the top as, say, 'Ash vs the Evil Dead' (despite being pretty over the top at times). Fans of the show's creators, Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, would be well-advised not to expect a similar tone in 'Preacher' as in some of the duo's previous works like 'This Is the End' or 'The Interview'. What we have here is probably best described as "dark fantasy" and while it IS peppered with a large dose of dark comedy, I'm pretty sure there will also be some rather unfunny shît down the road for this preacher to deal with.
As for the production values, the visuals (and the visual effects) in general look very nice and the sets convincing; the southern locations have a "lived-in" and appropriately run-down look and the whole small-town, Texan atmosphere is tangible. The cinematography was expertly done (the pilot's DoP was none other than The Matrix' Bill Pope) and the soundtrack is even downright fantastic (if you can appreciate southern songs from the likes of Johnny Cash, that is). The one thing that didn't always work for me was the pacing/editing and the way certain scenes were established, but a slightly uneven rhythm is not uncommon for pilot episodes, so I'm not worried yet.
My overall verdict: 'Preacher' is a show that doesn't try for a second to cater to a mainstream audience; it offers a unique blend of pulp elements and dark fantasy for genre fans who most likely won't have the slightest problem digesting the hefty mix of drama, horror, gory violence and humor. Needless to say, I'm totally on board (and I can't wait for the next sermon). My provisional rating: 8 stars out of 10.
Favorite films: http://www.IMDb.com/list/mkjOKvqlSBs/
Lesser-known Masterpieces: http://www.imdb.com/list/ls070242495/
Favorite Low-Budget and B-movies: http://www.imdb.com/list/ls054808375/
Favorite TV-Shows reviewed: http://www.imdb.com/list/ls075552387/
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