Friday, September 14, 2012

Bullet in the Face: Deranged and Violent, But Terribly Fun

NOTE: This piece was originally published on Critics at Large on September 14, 2012. If you wish to comment, please do so on that page.

Max Williams and Neil Napier in Bullet in the Face, on IFC

The TV universe is full of shows that seem designed to appeal to those who favour hallucination over reality. The Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim’s staggeringly long-running Aqua Teen Hunger Force (re-titled in recent seasons as Aqua Unit Patrol Squad 1 and this past summer, in its 9th season, as Aqua Something You Know Whatever) certainly seem to have embraced the coveted “too impatient for linear narrative, too stoned to change the channel” demo with some success – but it is rare for a live-action series to go that route. Enter Bullet in the Face: a Canadian-produced noir parody series, created by Alan Spencer and starring former pro hockey player Max Williams alongside veteran actors Eric Roberts and Eddie Izzard, which had its 6-episode first season air in mid-August on IFC in the U.S. and Super Channel in Canada, beginning on September 17th.

Williams plays Gunter Vogler, a German-accented sociopathic mob enforcer whose life takes a sudden turn when he gets shot in the face and wakes to find that an experimental medical procedure has left him wearing the face of a cop he recently killed. It's all part of an insane scheme by Police Commissioner Eva Braden (Jessica Steen) to use Vogler to take down her city's underworld in one fiery swoop. Of course Vogler turns out to be impossible to control and the plan leaves dozens of bodies in its wake, innocent and guilty alike. (A few samples of his general outlook: when his ‘partner’ tells him that the city is being torn apart because of lack of manpower, Vogler retorts “Then use children.” When asked if he ever “gets tired of being so relentlessly evil all the time”, he replies “Of course. That's why I take naps.”) Williams’ crazed energy more than carries the show through its manic plotlines, but Eddie Izzard, as the agoraphobic crime boss Tannhäuser, is given many of the show’s best and most over-the-top lines. (Asked at one point by a lackey to explain why he’s decided to blow up the city’s hospitals, Tannhauser explains that “It's what King Herod would have done.”)