Bad Means Good Again – ‘Into the Badlands’ Premiere Review

GameStop, Inc.
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4 vs 1 assasination attempt, in a dark alley on a rainy night. Do you really need another reason?

Review in a Tweet: “Bad means good again, #AMC could have another ‘Bad’ show on their hands – #IntoTheBadlands review”

Last night AMC premiered their sci-fi martial arts western Into the Badlands starring Daniel Wu. The series is produced by Alfred Gough and Miles Millar and features their keen eye for action, but is a bit light on the comedy. The story revolves around a post apocalyptic Earth, where seven barons (warlords) rule the land with their armies of clippers (trained assasins).

Daniel Wu plays Sunny, the most feared and revered clipper who has racked over 400 kills with a tatoo for each life he has taken without remorse; I mention the without remorse part because the opening minutes includes Sunny killing roughly a dozen men and I don’t remember seeing any fresh ink on his back.  He winds up saving a boy who was locked in a trunk wrongfully acquired by the dozen nomads he takes out. He brings the boy back to his baron in order to be trained as a clipper, since being a clipper is the only job that offers any kind of life fulfillment by the looks of things. The boy goes by M.K., played by Aramis Knight, who seems normal and untrained as a fighter until he bleeds, at which point he becomes some kind of posessed martial arts master with enhanced strength. The episode goes on to set up some conspiracy in the barons’ status quo, as well as personal dilemmas that will likely cause Sunny to abandon his clipper life. M.K. is set up to have a pivotal role in the barons’ conspiracy as well as a key to Sunny’s past and future.

Story wise, the set up of events has a rather cliche feel to it. There are so many post apocalyptic prograns flooding the media that it’s hard to get excited about the set up. I get it, a blank slate is needed to set up a new and different world, but it’s done a lot. I do like that not everything seems dead and barren as well that everyone isn’t dirty. I’m sure the story will get better, but it’s really nothing amazingly unique or special.

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One of the coolest moves of the night: Arm Pull to Throat Drop

However, the action and cinematagrophy enhance the story and really drive the show. The cinematogrophy is very cinematic, from the landscapes and environment to the tracking of the action. Everything is vivid and eye catching. The fight choreography is stunning and really displays a high caliber of martial arts action. There is a fight scene where Sunny is ambushed by assasins in the rain which any martial arts fan knows, rain makes every fight more intense. The special effects are also superb, for the most part I believe it is largely practical effects which ground it. The blood splatters and deaths have the same grounded feel of The Walking Dead, but not as cringe worthy yet.

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I’m always a fan when the protagonists get a few punches to the face.

The acting is solid, Wu embodies a noble badass. He is strong, of few words, and confident in his abilities without being boastful. The rest of the cast seem solid, but again nothing really stands out. Knight looked adept in his light fight choreo and will likely only improve. Quinn, played by Marton Csokas, is Sunny’s baron; equipped with supreme purpose and a southern accent, he plays evil boss well, but has no stand out moments. Quinn has a son named Ryder (Oliver Stark), a wife named Lydia (Orla Brady), and is in dealings with newly appointed Baron The Widow (Emily Beecham). The Widow had a somewhat memorable scene when she had her assasin attempt to ambush and kill Sunny, but again nothin stood out. The episode really seemed to be a lot of set up, and felt short. The normal first commercial break about 10 minutes in was not there, which I am not sure really did anything but allow for more set up to be viewed.

Into the Badlands is still a very new show, and I might be overly hyped because of the action. However it has the quality and potential to grow into a massive hit, and also has the one of the best lead in shows possible to goose their ratings and guarantee a decent run. The action and cinematography are hands down the highlight of the show, aside from Mike Shinoda’s intro, but it has an interesting enough story, capable cast, and potential to match the great drama AMC is known for delivering in their Sunday programs. Just going off AMC’s track record with shows that have “Bad” in their name, they usually do pretty well. I can’t guarantee the story alone is enough to hook anyone, but if you are a fan of action and martial arts this is a must watch.

Into the Badlands airs Sundays at 11pm EST on AMC, following The Walking Dead

The Verdict
4.5

Summary

Bad means good again, ‘Into the Badlands’ puts the art back in martial arts.

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