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"The Red Road": The Complete First Season DVD Review

The Red Road: The Complete First Season DVD cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com The Red Road: Season One (2014)
Show & DVD Details

Creator: Aaron Guzikowski / Executive Producers: Bridget Carpenter, Sarah Condon

Writers: Aaron Guzikowski, Bridget Carpenter, Zack Whedon / Directors: J. Michael Muro, Lodge Kerrigan, James Gray, Terry McDonough

Regular Cast: Martin Henderson (Harold Jensen), Jason Momoa (Phillip Kopus), Julianne Nicholson (Jean Jensen), Tamara Tunie (Marie Van Der Veen), Kiowa Gordon (Junior Van Der Veen), Allie Gonino (Rachel Jensen), Annalise Basso (Kate Jensen)

Recurring Characters: Zahn McClarnon (Mike Parker), Tom Sizemore (Jack Kopus), Antoni Corone (Captain Warren), Lisa Bonet (Sky Van Der Veen), Mike Farrell (David Rogers), Gary Farmer (Chief Mac Van Der Veen), Nick Gomez (Frank Morgan), Nickola Shreli (Duke), Fred Lehne (Detective Alcala), Corey Parker Robinson (Detective Patten), Kara Michele Wilder (Sonya), Brooke Montalvo (Paige), Keith Flippen (Doctor Beilke)

Notable Guest Stars: Gabriel Basso (Brian Rogers), Glenn McCuen (Young Harold Jensen), Erika Colman (Sonya)

Running Time: 265 Minutes (6 episodes) / Rating: Not Rated (TV-14 on air)

1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen / Dolby Digital 5.1 (English)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish / Not Closed Captioned / Extras Not Subtitled
Suggested Retail Price: $29.98 / DVD Release Date: March 10, 2015 / Season 1 Air Dates: February 27 - April 2, 2014
Two single-sided discs (DVD-9 & DVD-5) / Black Eco-Friendly Keepcase in Cardboard Slipcover
Also available on Amazon Instant Video

Buy The Red Road: Season One from Amazon.com: DVD Instant Video

We are living in an exciting and lucrative time for cable television. Channels have been able to invent and reinvent themselves on the basis of original programming. Virtually overnight,
AMC went from the subject of ridicule for its broad definition of American Movie Classics to the destination for TV's most acclaimed, discussed, and widely-viewed dramas. That meteoric rise may be the gold standard, but other channels have also emerged from obscurity to try their hand at telling original stories without the limitations and demands of network TV.

SundanceTV, known as Sundance Channel until last year, and one of four channels owned by AMC Networks, is among the cable channels looking to stand out and making waves in the process. Launched in 1996 as a joint venture between Showtime Networks, Universal Studios, and Robert Redford, whose long-running annual winter film festival in Utah provided both the name and the focus, Sundance has evolved to suit the times and to meet the public's appetite for unconventional episodic drama. The channel already has four scripted programs on the air with more on the way. While they've still got a very long way to go before enjoying an audience as large and passionate as their parent company's signature station, Sundance has been commanding similar raves from critics for offerings like "Rectify" and the UK imports "Top of the Lake" and "Babylon."

In "The Red Road", hunky ex-con Phillip Kopus (Jason Momoa) returns to his hometown of Walpole and into the lives of people he knew as a teenager.

"The Red Road", an altogether original production, is set chiefly in the rural mountain town of Walpole, New Jersey. Our focus is fixed on two families on different sides of the law who have a history of bad blood between them. The Jensens consist of police officer Harold (The Ring's Martin Henderson), his wife, recovering alcoholic Jean (August: Osage County's Julianne Nicholson), and their two redheaded teenage daughters, Rachel (Allie Gonino) and Kate (Annalise Basso).

Walpole is also home to a number of Lenape Indians. There are historic, ongoing tensions between these Native Americans and their white neighbors. At the series' start, Rachel is dating Junior Van Der Veen (Kiowa Gordon). Their forbidden romance evokes Romeo and Juliet,
but it is not the primary focus of the show. That would be the unlikely alliance struck between Harold and Phillip Kopus (genre TV veteran Jason Momoa), a tough ex-con who has recently returned home after a stint in jail. Phillip takes Junior, his "brother", under his wing and makes him a part of crime operations that mostly consist of stealing and reselling pharmaceuticals and splitting the profits with Phillip's father, the New York City-based Jack Kopus (Tom Sizemore).

"Red Road" is compelling television which effortlessly gets you acquainted with characters in whom you'll want to invest. There's always something interesting about watching people rewrite their moral codes before your very eyes. The series intrigues with both upstanding characters relaxing their standards and criminals whom circumstances drive deeper into their ill-doings.

The cast is quite good, regardless of their varied past experiences. The writing, chiefly handled by creator Aaron Guzikowski, who comes to television on the heels of two well-performing screenplays (the pretty good Mark Wahlberg remake Contraband and the very good hard-boiled drama Prisoners). The series loses its way slightly at the end of its short season, having to speed up and abandon logic to generate action and cliffhangers instead of sticking to its comfortably relaxed regular pace.

The work of deputy police officer Harold Jensen (Martin Henderson) is complicated by an alliance he forms with a criminal.

Available now on DVD, The Complete First Season of "The Red Road" is comprised of just six hour-long episodes, which generally run a little under 45 minutes without commercial breaks. The second season, also to consist of six episodes, will begin airing on Sundance in early April.

1. Arise My Love, Shake Off This Dream (44:26) (Originally aired February 27, 2014)

2. The Wolf and the Dog (44:51) (Originally aired March 6, 2014)

3. The Woman Who Fell from the Sky (44:45) (Originally aired March 13, 2014)

4. The Bad Weapons (42:21) (Originally aired March 20, 2014)

5. The Great Snake Battle (43:06) (Originally aired March 27, 2014)

6. Snaring of the Sun (45:10) (Originally aired April 3, 2014)

Jack Kopus (Tom Sizemore), a shady New York-based criminal, is also Phillip's father. Jean Jensen (Julianne Nicholson) discovers her problems go further than alcoholism when she is checked into a mental hospital.

VIDEO and AUDIO

It always seems a little silly when a new television show only comes to DVD and Blu-ray, the latter format not looking as pristine as the HD broadcasts many will have first seen the show. Still, while Anchor Bay's anamorphic 1.78:1 widescreen presentations may lack some of the sharpness and detail you'd like, they are without any specific concerns. Similarly, the DVD's Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack gets the job done, just not as potently as what those who have been spoiled by Blu-ray's lossless have become accustomed to. Infrequent mild profanity, probably heard on the air, remains intact, though the series, rated TV-14 on air, eschews anything worse than that and some light violence in content.

Creator Aaron Guzikowski and executive producer Bridget Carpenter discuss The Red Road in "Sundance on Set." Julianne Nicholson talks about her and other characters in "Cast and Crew."

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

Three different types of extras are found on Disc 2.

"Sundance on Set: The Red Road" (4:01) offers a basic overview of the series with cast and crew talking heads and some behind-the-scenes footage.

"Behind the Screen" shorts (12:09) are included for all six episodes. Running two minutes each, these pieces collect thoughts from the cast and creators specific to that installment, including the significance of the titles which are all derived from Native American myths. These might have been better presented alongside the episodes but they also have value in the one lump viewing you'll probably give them here with the "Play All" option.

"The Red Road: Cast and Crew" (7:28) moves us through the principal characters with comments from the actors who play them and writers/producers.

Disc 2's main menu drenches a scene from "The Red Road" in the titular hue. Every one of The Red Road's episodes is named after a Native American myth.

Disc One opens with a promo for Sundance TV and a trailer for Jason Momoa's film Road to Paloma, co-starring his real-life wife and recurring "Red Road" co-star Lisa Bonet.

The main menus play clips with red tinting and border, a design somewhat adapted from the opening titles. Submenus are static and silent.

The two full-color discs are held in a standard black Eco-Box keepcase which is topped by a slipcover featuring the same artwork, a swinging tray, and an insert promoting the channel's official website.

Harold (Martin Henderson) expects to put Mike Parker (Zahn McClarnon) away for life on the basis of stolen pharmaceuticals, action he'll soon reconsider as a form of self-preservation.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Though "The Red Road" stumbles a bit at its end of its short first season, it does a good job of immersing and captivating you up until then. This drama is a lot closer to AMC's excellence than to more graphic premium cable fare and more shallow, conventional network TV drama. Anchor Bay's DVD is pretty basic, but its picture and sound are agreeable and the 25 minutes of bonus materials are nice company. If you're looking to adopt a new series and get Sundance TV, this DVD will give you plenty of time to decide if you want to watch or DVR Season 2 as it airs.

Buy The Red Road: The Complete First Season from Amazon.com:
DVD / Instant Video

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Related Reviews:
Written by Aaron Guzikowski: Prisoners | New: The World Made Straight
Martin Henderson: The Ring Bride & Prejudice Devil's Knot | Julianne Nicholson: August: Osage County
Tamara Tunie: Flight | Kiowa Gordon: The Twilight Saga: Eclipse | Annalise Basso: Standing Up
Rectify: Season 1 The Killing: The Complete First Season Low Winter Sun: The Complete Series

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Reviewed March 12, 2015.



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