Lights Out Review

It is such a shame when a television series begins to hit its stride only to be canceled at its strongest (artistically of course because it would not have been canceled if it was strong commercially).  Such is the case with Lights Out.

Lights Out follows Patrick "Lights" Leary (Holt McCallany), a former heavy weight champion who has been leaving well above his financial means and is now in debt.  Patrick now must juggle the jobs of keeping his financial instability a secret from his family and finding any way possible to get money.  At the same time, his former nemesis "Death Row" Reynolds (Billy Brown) announces he hopes to have a rematch with Patrick.  A rematch that might not be in the best interest of Patrick and his family.

Lights Out is created by Justin Zackham (Bucket List) and the main director for the series is Norberto Barba (Law & Order).  The series is at times poorly written.  Zackham and company struggle with the family drama that takes center stage in the early stages of the series.  Many of the actions taken by the characters in the first half of the series seem to be taken to advance the plot instead of staying true to the character.  Luckily the direction of the series is much better.  Barba and company stop the series from seeming like melodrama (which it easily could have been with this writing).  The fight scenes are also some of the best you will see on television.  The directors create a really realistic atmosphere (and is in this way the opposite of its fellow FX drama Justified, which purposefully follows a more literary style).  The real masterpiece in direction of the series is the series finale "War", in which Norberto Barba creates a worthy conclusion that lives up to the hype that the story lines of the season build up to.  The other highlight of the series is the second half which effectively relies on its guest stars to continue the momentum (Such as Eamonn Walker in "Head Games" and "Infight" and David Morse in "Rainmaker")

The acting on display is a realistic and subtle style.  It takes a while for the viewer to notice the complex work being done by most of these actors.  Holt McCallany is effective as the lead and is the best example of my previous point.  At first, he appears to have been casted because he looks like a professional boxer, but as the season progresses, you begin to realize that McCallany is creating a real and complex figure that you can see in his face is debating the pros and cons of every decision.  The highlights of the supporting cast are Stacy Keach  as Patrick's father and Ryann Shane as Patrick's middle-daughter.  Stacy Keach easily creates the necessary (and at times cliche) wise trainer.  Keach, however, is able to act past the cliches.  Ryann Shane, however, is the real surprise of the bunch as she displays (in both acting and character moments) an age beyond her actual years.  The only negative component of the cast is Pablo Schreiber as Patrick's brother.  Schreiber becomes annoying fast and never is able to create anything beyond a one-dimensional character.  The real highlight of the acting in this show are the guest actors.  Eamonn Walker is phenomenal as a yoda-like trainer.  He really brings the quirkiness and this quirkiness makes the viewer very uneasy as you never what he is going to do next.  David Morse is also great as a former heavy weight champion.  It only takes a scene for you to pity this man (even though the episode thought it would take more time) thanks to this man's great acting.

Behind the camera, the real triumphs are the editing and cinematography.  These two components allow for some exciting, fast-paced, and realistic fight scenes.  Just watch the big fight scene in the series finale to see the editing and cinematography work on this series is some of the best in television.

Lights Out was (I unfortunately have to talk about it in the past tense) a good series that tries to be the new Friday Night Lights but fell just short.  It is still a recommended watch.


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