Tagged Nikki Amuka-Bird

Quarry – Season 1, Episode 5: “Coffee Blues”

Cinemax’s Quarry
Season 1, Episode 5: “Coffee Blues”
Directed by Greg Yaitanes
Written by Jennifer Schuur

* For a review of the previous episode, “Seldom Realized” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “His Deeds Were Scattered” – click here
screen-shot-2016-10-08-at-2-07-16-amMac (Logan Marshall-Green) and Joni (Jodi Balfour) are back home after all the madness. They’re a little better for it, too. They’re strong again together. Such a traumatic experience may have, in a roundabout way, done them some good. Horrible to experience, but I’m glad they’re connecting once more after everything they’ve been through to now. Joni admits she wasn’t sure if he’d stick around. He assures his love for her. Aside from all that they have money troubles. She wants him to go to his father. At least that way there’s “one less person” on the list for The Broker (Peter Mullan).
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We see things aren’t going very well for Ruth (Nikki Amuka-Bird) and her family. Her son and daughter have to eat their cereal with water instead of milk. If that weren’t bad enough, her boy Marcus (Joshua J. Williams) then goes to school and his bus is attacked by white supremacists. A bunch of ordinary white dudes. Scary bastards, frightening helpless kids and a terrified bus driver. One man, Eugene Linwood (Christopher James Baker), makes his way inside the vehicle. He knocks out the driver before spewing a bunch of n-word hate. When a kid speaks up Eugene hauls him outside and beats him with a crowbar in front of everybody. Even some of the men outside protest, those bunch of fucks.
Mac goes to see his father Lloyd (Skipp Sudduth) at one of his house viewings. “Hat in hand,” he asks his father for help. Four grand. Lloyd assumes it’s gambling, drugs, something shady. After a bit of arguing though, he agrees to try and do what he can to help.
Detective Tommy Olsen (Josh Randall) stops by Cliff’s place to try rustling up a bit more information with the sister, Sandy (Kaley Ronayne). He tries to figure out if there’s more of a connection between Cliff and Joni. Not much comes out, however, it’s clear he’s not stopping the investigation.
At home, Mac and Joni see a car outside sitting mysteriously quiet. It’s The Broker, certainly. He’s come round to see what Quarry’s been up to, and it looks like they’ve got places to go. Mysterious shit, and that worries Joni. Like it would anyone sensible.

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On the road again – Mac and The Broker are on the road again.
Yet ole Quarry’s got no clue where they’re going, other than by the moment directions from his boss. “Death is just a switch that gets turned off,” The Broker repeats the words of Mac, the night he murdered Cliff. He questions Mac, whether he believes that statement. Is there nothing? Or is there “something else“? Intense conversation for a dude who has people killed for cold, hard cash. When they get where they’re going, it’s a real backwater-type spot with drinks and music and cigars and FUN! So, are they hanging out? I’d bet it’s more than just that.
Joni goes to help Ruth, getting accosted by a few men on the way in; racial tension running high. She understands, only wanting to do what she can for Ruth. Poor Marcus is shaken, depressed. Again, understandable.
In a small backwater casino Mac gets the chance to play a bit of money, work off a bit of debt, and if not Karl (Edoardo Ballerini) takes the hit. Hilarious. They move from roulette to a poker table, where The Broker talks casual smack and plays hard. Everything gets a bit wild after he starts a fight over Mac’s service in Vietnam, prompting Quarry to smash a glass into a dude’s face. I feel like The Broker is a predator. And with Mac left needing somebody to command him, requiring orders after being brainwashed by the army, he’s overly susceptible to getting preyed upon.
At work, Ruth chats with Moses (Mustafa Shakir) about the racist attack on the bus. It’s clear that Moses is keeping an eye on her, trying to find things out. But he’s also a strong, proud, black man. He knows the horror of being black in America, which sort of brings him and Ruth together. Maybe a sympathy that leads to romance? A conflict for Moses and The Broker?

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Out in the dark, The Broker and Mac talk. Seems like Mac has the guy figured out, despite my own thoughts. He knows that it was all a way of bonding “over a common enemy.” I still think the slithering serpent in The Broker’s going to work its way into Mac’s brain. Just the calm before the storm. The wolf playing sheep.
Marcus is absolutely pissed with his mother. He’s pissed with the world. Then on the news we see that Eugene Linwood was arrested. Although “street violence” in the black community looks expected. Why wouldn’t it? Fucking racists beating kids in the street.
Mac and The Broker play some more cards. Except out of nowhere the old bastard disappears. So out wanders Mac, walking aimlessly. He finds his way to a big, old house, looking for a telephone. The place is all wrapped in plastic, nothing working. In another room, Mac hears Asian voices. The Broker is sitting with somebody, listening. An Asian mask appears in the door frame, frightening Mac. Flashbacks. He sees another couple masks, people standing in dark hallways. Quickly he rushes outdoors and away from the place. The Broker finds him when the sun comes up and the head off to get Mac back to his wife.

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The Broker starts asking about Joni, what she believes happened at the motel. Mac explains things, as well as he can to keep the man off their back. Even worse, The Broker puts butter in his coffee. Gross. He’s clearly got problems. A murderous, butter coffee drinking motherfucker.
At the backwater camp, Karl is lurking. The stuff Mac thought was bullshit, the story The Broker told him about the fat man that needed killing – all true. And you can bet that the reptilian side of him is also very real. He’s lying in the grass, hooking Mac, deeper and deeper.
When Mac gets home there’s $100 from Lloyd. Far shot from $4,000.
Joni’s glad to see her man back obviously. When he pours up a coffee, he drops a sliver of butter in: “Tryinsomethin‘,” he tells Joni. A lighthearted ending, but underneath there’s a sinister meaning. That butter in the coffee is just the beginning. Mac’s becoming a bit too accustomed to the world of The Broker. A bit too blind to its unhealthy aspects, just like that butter in the coffee (I don’t care who says it’s healthy that is bullshit). He’s falling into a bad, bad world.


I love this series. Absolutely brilliant! The writing is spectacular and I cannot get enough. Next episode is titled “His Deeds Were Scattered” and I cannot wait to see what’s coming.

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Quarry – Season 1, Episode 1: “You Don’t Miss Your Water”

Cinemax’s Quarry
Season 1, Episode 1: “You Don’t Miss Your Water”
Directed by Greg Yaitanes
Written by Michael D. Fuller & Graham Gordy

* For a review of the next episode, “Figure Four” – click here
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A man lies face down in the water at the edge of the shore. This is Mac Conway (Logan Marshall-Green). He’s seen better days. At least he’s alive. Stubmling down the shore further Mac sees a man and shoots him from behind, putting another bullet in him after he’s down. Then into the river he goes.
But time hasn’t gotten there yet. This is Mac’s future.
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In ’72, Mac’s returning from Vietnam with his buddy Arthur (Jamie Hector). At the airport they’re greeted by Arthur’s wife Ruth (Nikki Amuka-Bird). Coming home is a surprise for Mac’s wife. That’s pretty nice. What’s not so nice is that Mac and Arthur were “implicated” in a massacre that happened in Vietnam. They were cleared, but obviously the sentiments back home feel differently. I dig the story within the first ten minutes because it’s a side of American military history we don’t often get to see, other than a few choice movies. Quarry sets up a unique look into the lives of men who were in the army during a dirty, especially underhanded (at times) military conflict.
So Mac gets back to his place. Inside he finds “Tupelo Honey” playing, his wife Joni (Jodi Balfour) cleaning the pool. A better reception than at the airport.
Outside, a familiar face from the airport, Buddy (Damon Herriman), is lurking strangely and taking pictures of the house. He’s also got an arsenal of weapons in his trunk. All the while the happy couple relax inside with a joint, swim in the pool. Except Mac has strange visions after diving below the water, nearly choking before pushing above the surface. Of course he pretends it’s nothing. Yet the strange image of an Asian-looking mask in the pool lingers in my mind.
Later that night Mac gets a hang-up call. This almost immediately creates paranoia. You can tell just by the look in his eyes.
Back in his neighbourhood, Arthur plays some ball with his boy Marcus (Joshua J. Williams), as Ruth is busy making a nice breakfast. They’re a sweet little family, glad to have papa home once more. Arthur’s busy heading out to try and find work; another struggle for many of the men coming home from Vietnam, sadly. A problem that still persists to this day, too. He has an interview where the white man who sees him in won’t even shake his hand. From there it doesn’t look so hot. No management position like Arthur imagined. He fought for his country, now they’ll have him doing whatever grunt work they can find.
A welcome home party sees Mac and his father Lloyd (Skipp Sudduth) sit together awhile. Every relationship has changed, except for Joni it seems. The wives are the most understanding of everybody. Lloyd lets his son know he’s not welcome around the house, his wife doesn’t approve of all that stuff Mac got involved with over in Vietnam. I assume they’re talking about something similar to what we now know as the Mỹ Lai Massacre. Only wonder exactly how involved both Mac and Arthur were.
Looks as if Buddy is working for the Broker (god amongst men Peter Mullan), keeping an eye on Mac for some reason. Perhaps they’re preying on newly returned veterans.

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Out looking for work, Mac finds further resistance to him being home. Nobody seems to want to have anything to do with him. It becomes more clear by the minute Mac will have to figure something else out. “Two tours, one hundred and fiftysix dollars, sixtyeight cents. Your thank you for your service card mustve got lost in the mail,” he laments looking at a cheque from the government. Terrible to see how veterans were being treated, and in some cases still are; Mac’s situation is a microcosm. Judging by the episode opener, he’s been left with no other choices. Nobody wants to help him, employ him.
Until the Broker shows up on the deck of Mac’s pool. He has a bit of an offer. Including if Mac makes any trouble, a man named Karl (Edoardo Ballerini) inside with a gun. The “opportunity” is refused. The Broker has a line on how desperate Mac is beginning to get, how badly he needs income. “All you gotta do is pull the trigger,” he explains to Mac. They chat a bit about why Mac went back to Vietnam. Things end abruptly before Joni gets home. Not before Mac straps a shotgun underneath the bed.
At a garage, Mac finds the mechanic there as greasy as any criminal, doing anything he can to fleece customers. So what’s the difference, really? Meanwhile, poor Arthur’s breaking his back in a mill for shit pay, wondering exactly why there’s nothing better for him either. The two of them discover they’ve been approached by the Broker. Arthur is totally fine with doing contract killings, although Mac is understandably reserved. After Vietnam a man’s morals have been degraded. “If you do this, you are who they say you are, man,” Mac pleads with his friend. To which he replies: “We already are what they say we are, where you been?”

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The damage to Mac’s psyche is clear. He almost wants to kill a man who tries to assuage his guilt about the Quan Thang Massacre. Instead, he hugs the man. Tightly.
It isn’t long before Mac has changed his mind. He and Arthur have a look at the job they’re up for currently. The Broker gives them guns, plus a file full of information on the target. Arthur and Mac scope the guy out, start doing some recon. When the time is right Arthur sneaks into the man’s apartment. Problem is he’s shot by someone waiting in the dark. Across the way Mac watches through binoculars, horrified by the turn of events. He heads in blasting on his own. The two men wrestle with him awhile, but Mac gets the upper hand on one, as the other runs. So sad to see Mac and Arthur survive Vietnam, only for the latter to die on the floor of some dirty apartment. Then having to see his friend be buried, feeling alone in the midst of all those people with the knowledge of what happened; this is excellently visualised showing Mac literally alone, the people around him disappearing momentarily.
The Broker calls Mac up to let him know he’s now officially on the hook for $30K. They’re also meeting up at the quarry to discuss everything further. Oh, I can see the sinister way all this is headed. Things are already deteriorating between Joni and Mac, a little. They start arguing over a misplaced Otis Redding record; not exactly fair on his part. But the divide is beginning. I only hope he doesn’t manage to push her away because she’s about the single person on Earth who seems to understand him on any kind of level.
Out at the quarry, Mac meets the Broker. Certainly the veteran has himself covered, shotgun and all. The Broker’s smart, though, and has a sniper on a nearby ridge covering them, as well. Quarry becomes Mac’s new nickname. Also, the veteran will have to do a few things for the Broker. Surely to make life more complicated than any easier.

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Over in that lonely room, Mac goes to see Buddy about what’s next; another file. At the same time, Buddy makes himself a spiked bat while they talk. Next target is Cliff Williams (Daniel Brunnemer Hall). A lot of great dialogue from Buddy in particular here. Love this scene. His bit about the “unexamined life” is a perfect work-in of philosophical thought into an unexpected scene.
When Mac follows Cliff he arrives at his own house. So, he heads up along the side, crying, hearing his wife inside with that man. They get naked together, Mac trying not to reveal himself just yet. An awful situation to experience. All a setup by the Broker to show him what’s happening in his own life. Afterwards, Mac goes to see Cliff in his garage; that’s where his Otis record went. Yikes. Fucking harsh, Joni. Death comes harsh for Cliff, too. The transformation of Mac into Quarry is happening fast, the descent into nothingness egged on by this brutal betrayal. And job done for the Broker.
Back at his house, Mac puts on Otis, so that Joni can hear. He swims laps in the pool. Without words they understand one another. Just no telling where they go from here.

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This is one of the BEST opening episodes of a series I’ve seen in awhile. Great story, great characters. Plenty of intrigue. And it’s timeless, the subject matter, the themes. Can’t wait to see the follow-up episode titled “Figure Four” – guaranteed it’ll be another intriguing chapter. The acting is phenomenal from Logan Marshall-Green. I’m beyond pumped for more.