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Strike Back: Cinemax Season 1 (Blu-ray Review)

4 Aug, 2012 By: Chris Tribbey

Street 8/7/12
$49.98 four-DVD set, $59.96 4-BD/2-DVD combo pack
Not rated.
Stars Philip Winchester, Sullivan Stapleton, Amanda Mealing, Eve Birthistle, Jimi Mistry, Rhashan Stone, Richard Armitage.

So, “Strike Back” isn’t as intelligent as “The Unit”; head to head, “24” is a better adrenaline rush; “Alias” wins in terms of intrigue.

Still, for every series it’s been compared to, Cinemax’s international espionage thriller shames them all in two crucial categories: skin and violence. And we thank you for that, cable TV.

Based on a popular British series, the U.S. continuation of “Strike Back” sees rigid English M16 agent Michael (Philip Winchester of “Fringe” and Flyboys) paired with horn-dog ex-Delta Force operative Damian (Sullivan Stapleton of Animal Kingdom and December Boys), both charged with tackling international terrorist threats under the direction of a below-board government service, dubbed Section 20.

“Strike Back” initially relies on sex and simple brutality to get your attention. The first few episodes demand complete suspension of disbelief, a blind acceptance that impossible situations can be quickly and easily resolved. Eye-candy production values aside, casual viewers are excused if they bailed after the first couple episodes.

But come back. Stick around. There’s actually a great story here. A smart over-arching plot. An intriguing villain. Completely unexpected deaths and betrayals. Relevant, modern-day themes (think Iraq and WMDs). And they never let up on the sex … or heroes pumping bullets into fallen enemies.

With the second season set to air this month, “Strike Back” is Cinemax’s first foray into the original drama-action category. Leveraging its lack of censorship and taking a risk on a relatively unknown cast, Cinemax partner HBO made the most of this.

Sadly, commentaries for five of the 10 episodes are all that’s available in the Blu-ray bonuses department. No featurette, no deleted scenes. The video and audio presentations are excellent, and Blu-ray owners get a DVD copy and a digital copy.

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