Lieutenant Commander Steve McGarrett (Alex O'Loughlin) departs from a top-secret base inside a mountain at Pohang, South Korea in a military transport with prisoner Anton Hesse. McGarrett has been tracking Anton and his brother Victor, both international arms dealers, for five years. McGarrett's cel phone rings, and it is his father John, a policeman with the Honolulu Police Department (HPD). His father is being held prisoner by Victor, who threatens to kill him if Anton is not released. McGarrett says that he will not negotiate under these circumstances and his father says not to give in. Suddenly out of nowhere several of Victor's well-armed henchmen arrive in a helicopter, and start attacking the convoy. Two of the vehicles are totally destroyed during a firefight, during which Anton escapes from McGarrett's custody and grabs a weapon. McGarrett has no choice but to shoot him, fatally. In Honolulu, McGarrett's father is executed when Victor figures out what has happened.
[Is the mountain hideout at the beginning done with miniatures or CGI? After seeing this kind of territory on "Lost" for 6 years, it sure doesn't look like "Korea." The accents of both Anton and Victor leave a lot to be desired -- they sound more Irish than Russian. Some of the music at the beginning is reminiscent of John Powell's for the Bourne Trilogy.]
[This is where the main titles appear.]
McGarrett returns to Honolulu on a USAF C-17 Victory transport aircraft for his father's funeral. He is summoned by Governor Pat Jameson (Jean Smart), who meets him near the Arizona Memorial. She wants him to create a task force with "no red tape," saying "I can help you find this son of a bitch, with full immunity and means. Your task force will have blanket authority to go after guys like Hesse and get them the hell off my island." McGarrett will have none of this, saying that Victor already has an exit strategy in place and he considers her idea to be just a pre-election gimmick. The governor says that she knew McGarrett's father, and that "It's personal for me too." She gives McGarrett her card.
[This sequence has a couple of what will be several insert shots of Honolulu seen during the show to establish atmosphere. Later, there are also several long shots of the Honolulu skyline which look like they are done with CGI (though maybe not). Although McGarrett says he has barely enough time to bury his father, doesn't he think it appropriate to take a shave? At the funeral, which appears in flashbacks shortly after this, he is still grubby-looking. McGarrett mentions that his grandfather was killed at Pearl Harbor. According to the governor, McGarrett had five years in naval intelligence, and 6 years in the navy SEALS.]
As he is about to leave, McGarrett is hailed by Chin Ho Kelly (Daniel Dae Kim), an old friend of his from Kuhuku High School who now works at a gift shop nearby. An HPD cop for 15 years, Chin was dismissed from the force after being accused of taking payoffs. He was a friend of McGarrett's father and remained so after his dismissal. Chin tells McGarrett that some "haole cop," "fresh meat from the mainland," and new to the department, is in charge of the investigation into his father's murder, saying he has "no clue how this island works."
[In his first appearance, Chin is wearing short pants. He was a star quarterback on the football team in high school ... but McGarrett broke all of his records.]
The next scene introduces us to this cop, Danny Williams (Scott Caan), who is picking up his daughter Grace to take her to school. Williams moved from New Jersey and got a job with HPD so he could be close to his child after his wife Rachel divorced him and moved to Hawaii. Williams is seen trying to get a warrant for Fred Doran, a suspect in the murder of McGarrett's father.
[Williams drives a 2011 Ford Mustang 5.0.]
McGarrett goes to his father's house, which is behind yellow police tape. He finds a bloody footprint on the floor in the room where his father was killed, and also some fingerprints on a table. He photographs both of these. He finds his father's car (the 1974 Mercury Grand Brougham from the original series) in the garage. He is about to leave with a box that contains a key and a tape recording made by his father which suggests that there is corruption in HPD, when he is interrupted by Williams, who doesn't know who he is. The two of them draw their guns in a brief standoff. When Williams insists that McGarrett leave the box, since it is evidence, McGarrett phones the governor and takes the job she offered him, gaining authority over Williams, saying "Now it's my crime scene."
The next day, McGarrett arrives at Williams' place in the pouring rain to talk about Doran, a suspected arms dealer who served two years in Maui Correctional. The bullet that killed McGarrett's father was traced back to Doran. Williams suspects Victor got a gun from Doran after landing in Oahu. McGarrett makes Williams his partner on the investigation despite Williams' reluctance, and the two of them go to Doran's place. On the way there, McGarrett tries to pry information out of Williams about his past, including his marriage. Williams describes Hawaii as a "pineapple infested hell-hole." He takes a call from his daughter on his cel phone while driving, saying "Danno loves you." When McGarrett asks what's with "Danno," Williams brushes him off.
[Williams' cel phone ring tone for his wife's phone is very bitchy-sounding. The music heard when they are driving to Doran's is junk.]
Doran's place is in what looks like a trailer park, and when they arrive there, Doran is abusing his female companion. There is a shoot-out, where Williams gets wounded, and Doran escapes, taking a hostage. Williams kills Doran (eliminating McGarrett's only lead) when Doran is about to shoot McGarrett.
[There is an incredible stunt during the shoot-out where O'Loughlin leaps over the trunk of a car, just when another car plows into it from behind.]
Back at Doran's place, McGarrett finds a woman named Chen Chi in a locked room, human traffic from China, destined for a life of prostitution in Hawaii. Williams and McGarrett argue while McGarrett has a brainstorm that Hesse arrived via the same ship as Chen Chi, culminating in McGarrett twisting Williams' arm seriously. When he is freed, Williams turns around and punches McGarrett in the face.
[Does it make sense that Hesse would come to Oahu on a ship with a bunch of immigrants? After all, the guy is a major international criminal! Surely he can afford a more classy form of transportation.]
As the McGarrett and Williams drive away from Doran's place, their argument continues with McGarrett eventually apologizing to Williams. They go and talk to Chin about Chen Chi, suspecting that Hesse may have come into Hawaii by the same route, and will be likely leaving soon. Chin says that they need to talk to a former confidential informant of his who can help locate the top "snakehead" on the island, a person responsible for smuggling people for a price. McGarrett wants to make Chin a member of the task force, but Chin describes himself as a "rubber gun" who is tainted by corruption. McGarrett says that if his father could trust Chin, then so can he.
The three of them go to see Kamekona, a large Hawaiian who runs a souvenir shop selling T-shirts and shaved ice on the beach. After McGarrett parts with some money, Kamekona tells Chin that Sang Min, who runs the local "human import/export business" is the man they are looking for. Chin suggests that the three of them cannot get involved with this investigation because on Oahu "the bad guys know the good guys." He introduces McGarrett and Williams to his cousin Kono (Grace Park), who is a former professional surfer who is soon graduating from the police academy.
[Grace Park seemingly does her own surfing. [NOT!! It is a "stunt surfer."] However, the scene where she punches out some guy who crashed into her in the water is ridiculous. McGarrett is wary of using her in the investigation because she has "no street experience." Nice touch with the name of the informant, by the way.]
McGarrett determines that the fingerprints at his father's place belonged to a man named Giovan Etienne, a computer programmer who is a known confederate of the Russians. At Williams' place, the two of them have a heart-to-heart talk over a couple of beers.
Kono goes to visit Sang Min, pretending to be a local girl working at mundane jobs who wants to bring her aunt and uncle over from China. While she is talking to Sang Min, the other three members of the team are outside in a semi-trailer which is full of computer equipment, watching the action on surveillance cameras. Sang Min forces Kono to strip down to her brassiere and panties to determine whether she is wearing a wire. He takes a photo of her and sends it to a contact who can verify whether she is a cop. In the surveillance truck, Williams determines that this contact is a "mole" inside HPD. Her true identity revealed, Kono attempts to fight her way out of the situation, just as the semi-trailer bursts through the walls and another shoot-out occurs. Sang Min escapes, but his car is put out of action by McGarrett. Outside Sang Min's place, a container is opened to reveal several Chinese refugees, and Chen Chi is reunited with her parents.
[This is where things start to get stupid. First of all, how did they get surveillance equipment -- specifically cameras -- inside Sang Min's place, which looks like a warehouse? There is another incredible stunt when the semi-trailer breaks through the door of the warehouse, and some guy in front of it is seemingly run over! But isn't this kind of a dumb move? What if Kono was standing in the truck's path?]
McGarrett interrogates Sang Min, threatening to have his wife and children deported back to their home country of Rwanda, where they will find life unbearable. Sang Min finally tells McGarrett where Hesse can be found. When Sang Min asks McGarrett "What kind of cops are you?", McGarrett replies, "The new kind."
McGarrett and Williams are seen driving down a long Florida Keys-like causeway in an HPD squad car to the container ship where Hesse is supposedly hiding out. The governor is freaking out, because of the potential for an international incident by boarding a Chinese ship heading for international waters, but McGarrett tells her no one will complain. During this ride, McGarrett finds out Williams' nickname of "Danno" was what Williams' daughter said when she tried to say her father's name at the age of three.
[The ship is not "heading for international waters," it's sitting at the dock. There is a ramp leading up from the street to the ship which is "very convenient" so McGarrett and Williams can just race up on to the ship. Their car is swerving all over the place as they drive around the docks. More Bourne-like music is heard.]
After they arrive at the container ship, there is an incredible gun battle and McGarrett fights with Hesse on top of a container. McGarrett is knocked off the container, but manages to shoot Hesse, who falls into the water. When Williams wonders what do with one of Hesse's henchmen, McGarrett says "Book 'em, Danno."
[The fight on top of the container is silly -- it reminded me of a video game. As well, McGarrett shoots Hesse with his gun that "conveniently" lands just beside where he falls after he is shot by Hesse. We see Hesse fall into the water, but the big question is: did he really die? What would have the original show been like if Wo Fat was knocked off during the pilot episode?]
As the show closes, and the team set up in their new headquarters, McGarrett gives Williams a gift certificate to a local hotel where he can hang out with his daughter for a few days. Then the team gets together for a beer and to discuss what their new task force name will be.
[They come up a couple of names, but the expression "Hawaii Five-O" is not heard ... the soundtrack fades out as it sounds like McGarrett is going to say something, then "Hawaii Five-O" shows up in large letters. The music as they are yukking it up, is highly reminiscent of Giacchino's score for "Lost."]
In addition to the above...
What I liked about the show:
- The banter between McGarrett and Williams and Danno's character generally. I can see now why James MacArthur reportedly liked this pilot -- Danno has a real attitude.
- The characters have a back story established right up front for the most part. With the original show, the back story came through in dribs and drabs over many seasons, especially with the Williams character.
- Alex O'Loughlin did a good job with his character, though he seems even more "wedded to his job" than Jack Lord's McGarrett.
What I didn't like about the show:
- The music. Considering the role that music played in the original show (even though there was a lot of stock music, like with the original Star Trek), this is the biggest disappointment. The music is a cross between the kind of faceless nonsense heard in most movies today and what you might hear in a Playstation or XBox video game. There are also a couple of pop music excerpts, including some rap piece -- a lazy solution. The main titles are abbreviated to 30 seconds, and there is no reference to this music in the show itself (even many of the Star Trek movies manage this!). This element of the show should be definitely improved.
- The photography with a camera that cannot stop moving and rapid-fire editing, highly reminiscent of Jerry Bruckheimer productions like Armageddon. Someone ought to do a Average Shot Length analysis for this pilot.
- The character of Kono. A former champion surfer and soon-to-graduate rookie cop, she has no serious police experience at all, and is brought into the team by her cousin Chin Ho because she will "not be known" by the bad guys. This strategy fails very quickly. In real life, after using her services, McGarrett would have let her go with thanks. Presumably she will stick around because she can be "trusted" (just like Chin Ho), since the Honolulu Police Department is a cesspool of corruption.
Just remember, though ... this pilot may not necessarily be the same as what is in shown when the new season kicks off in September. There is also often a big difference between a show's pilot and succeeding episodes. There was a major difference between the original Five-O pilot and the shows that followed. The pilot had more of a James Bond-like atmosphere, not to mention a different actor playing Danny Williams and main titles which were very different than the regular show.
If I was rating this pilot, I would give it two and a half stars. If the music was improved (and it looks like it has been, since the producers went back to an arrangement of the main theme like the original in late July), then I would have given it three. There were no end credits on the version of the pilot that I saw; presumably this re-recording of the theme music (which used three of the original musicians from years ago) will be heard under the end credits of the show.
Updated 28 July, 2010
Jeff Herman, who runs the Hawaii Five-O Celebration on Facebook (Facebook membership is not required to view), has revised his review of the show as of September 7th:
(NOTE: This review is based on the May 2010 version of the pilot episode; changes may have occurred to the final version that airs on Sept. 20th, 2010 on CBS. Also, we will be posting a mid-season review in January with an update on how the series has progressed creatively).
The new Hawaii Five-0 starts off with a literal bang that probably cost more money in the first 5 minutes than an entire season of the old series ever did. So right away, you know that you are in for an action-packed thrill ride in the vein of "24", rather than "CSI" or other modern-day crime procedurals. This is not a bad thing at all. In fact, it grabbed my attention and made me want to see more. We are introduced to the character of Steve McGarrett (Alex O' Loughlin), who suffers a family tragedy at the hands of his (most likely recurring) nemesis Victor Hesse, whom he has been chasing around the globe for years (Steve's an ex-Navy SEAL in this version). The Governor (Jean Smart) wants to get bastards like Hesse who seem to operate outside the law with impunity in her state, so she assigns Steve to head up a 'federalized' task force that will operate under its own rules and answer only to her.
Steve soon clashes with the HPD investigator assigned to the case, Dan Williams (Scott Caan), and the two verbally and physically spar through the rest of the pilot, and eventually develop a grudging respect for each other by show's end. Steve also recruits a disgraced ex-HPD detective named Chin Ho Kelly (LOST's Daniel Dae Kim), who in turn recruits his niece, Kono (Grace Park), who's fresh out of the police academy. Together, the squad tracks down their first arch-villain, who's involved in human trafficking among other nasty deeds. We are seeing the team come together in much the same way we did in the 2009 feature film "Star Trek", written by Alex Kurtzman and Robert Orci, who are also executive producers/developers of this new series. They are now old hands at reinventing classic characters.
So do we, the audience, care at all about these iconic characters in the guise of new actors? Based on the performances in the pilot, I would say they are batting .500 so far in this respect. The breakout performance of the show belongs to Caan, who reimagines the Dan Williams character in a sympathetic light as a divorced family man whose top priority is his young daughter, the reason he moved to the islands, where she's living with her mother and stepfather. Caan brings humanity, sorrow and humor to the character, and has some of the pilot's best lines. His testy relationship with McGarrett works very well, and some of the best character scenes in the pilot involve the two of them sparring as they track down Victor Hesse.
As Steve McGarrett, Alex O' Loughlin handles the physical stuntwork and witty banter with Danno quite well, but the actor seems to struggle with the scenes calling for McGarrett to give grim, teeth-clenched speeches. Jack Lord performed those types of smoldering scenes in his sleep, but O' Loughlin has trouble coming off as appropriately convincing in those moments, lacking the gravitas a veteran actor could bring to the lines. Hopefully, O' Loughlin will grow into the role and nail these types of scenes down the road, and become a more convincing leader. Here, his character is pretty much in a relentlessly driven one-note RoboCop mode until the last few minutes, as well as during a few moments of downtime with Caan. However, there's no denying that he and Caan have good chemistry together, which is a critical component for this revival to succeed.
As for the rest of the team, Daniel Dae Kim makes for a very appealing Chin Ho Kelly, and based on the character's troubled backstory, you get the sense that he will have the spotlight in future episodes. It's nice to see Kim stretch a little in this new role, whereas on LOST, he was pretty limited in what he could and couldn't do with his character. He doesn't have a great deal of screen time in the pilot, but he makes the very best of the time that he does have and is very likeable. Grace Park, while a talented actress in other roles, doesn't have much to do here other than act as eye candy (she performs most of her scenes in the pilot in either a bikini and her underwear). Hopefully, future episodes will make better use of her acting talent in addition to her natural beauty.
Reflecting back upon the old series, there were several other key ingredients that made the original a success besides the characters and the actors who portrayed them. Chief among those elements were the musical scores, the clever plots, the Hawaiian scenery, the "process" of crime solving, the guest stars, the talented directors, and the action scenes. How do these elements fare in the new version?
The new revival scores very well in the action and directing departments, helmed by the director of the most recent "Die Hard" movie, along with several of the "Underworld" movies: Len Wiseman. Wiseman knows where to place the camera to tell his story effectively, and he also is skilled at staging big action sequences that the script calls for. He also knows when to take a breath now and then and focus on the characters.
The plot itself, as mentioned earlier, is pretty standard good-guy-seeks-revenge-for-the-death-of-a-loved-one type stuff that we've seen many times before, but nevertheless it works very well as an introduction to the characters and manages to stay pretty fresh, again thanks to the director and the cast.
However, the music score is one of the big shortcomings of the pilot. It is standard action-type stuff that we've heard a thousand times in big-screen action films, courtesy of Brian Tyler, who's scored big-screen action films such as The Expendables, the Fast and the Furious, and the 2008 Rambo movie. One can't help but recall the classic series' memorable compositions by Morton Stevens, Don B. Ray, Richard Shores, Bruce Broughton and others; Tyler's music is instantly forgettable, except at the end, when he steals a music cue right from the final moments of the LOST finale.
The Hawaiian scenery looks stunning in both SD and HD (depending on your TV setup), and is vividly on display in both wide establishing shots of Oahu, and in some of the more run-down areas of the island and the beach sequences. The old show used the scenery as almost a supporting character, and while the pilot doesn't quite go that far, it still evokes a beautiful but dangerous tropical paradise.
The guest cast is talented enough, with James Marsters on-hand as McGarrett's arch-nemesis Victor Hesse, who's sorely lacking in screen time and thus leaves us without much of an impression. The character will inevitably return, however, and will hopefully be better developed and given more of a backstory to play with.
We also get to see McGarrett's detective skills on hand (a nice touch), and a wee bit of the crime deduction process as the Five-0 team analyzes clues and evidence. In addition, an ongoing mystery is set up, involving a mysterious box with some tantalizing items left inside by McGarrett's father. We also get a peek at the old Mercury that Jack Lord drove back in the day, in an understated but touching "tribute" to the original series.
What does this all mean for fans of the classic series? Well, if you were hoping for a show that evokes the same style and character interplay as the old series, you will be disappointed. The pilot bears little resemblance to the old show, which is now 42 years old. TV shows simply aren't made that way anymore. Instead of running for 50 minutes, they now run for 42 minutes, so they are much faster-paced. The characters are VERY different than their predecessors. The fashions of the old show are gone (McGarrett's suits have been replaced by t-shirts and cargo pants, although Caan gets to wear a tie), the cars are different, and Oahu is different (although the Iolani Palace appears to remain intact as the Five-0 headquarters). So anyone expecting the old series to be preserved in amber and thawed out here will be sorely disappointed, along with anyone who thinks that TV shows of the modern era all suck. However, those fans of the old show who are a bit more open-minded and actually enjoy TV shows from the modern era as well as the bygone era, should be relatively pleased with this first installment.
Despite its shortcomings in a few departments, there's a lot here to like. Constantly comparing it to the old show is a futile and ultimately frustrating effort, but if you compare it to much of the crap that currently passes for network and cable TV, you should be pleasantly surprised. Younger fans that aren't familiar with the old show should enjoy it as well, as there's plenty here to keep them engaged for an hour (and who knows, maybe they will be intrigued enough to check out the older series on DVD, back when Legends roamed the Earth and the network TV landscape). I am eager to make a return trip to the islands each week for the time being, as the show left me wanting more, and that's all anyone can ask of a show these days.
Grade: B (3 out of 4 stars).
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