Review: AMC's 'Hell on Wheels' a slow build
By April MacIntyre Nov 4, 2011, 19:42 GMT
A Confederate soldier hunts down the Union Soldiers who raped and murdered his wife, and his hunt leads him to the building of the Union Pacific railroad, and in the path of a powerful man. ...more
Fans of the Western genre will like the new AMC drama "Hell on Wheels," which is a mixed bag of stories.
A Southern Tobacco farmer turned mercenary of sorts seeks revenge; there are psychological test of wills between newly freed slaves and their new "bosses" and a woman's limited, short and at times brutal life makes you glad you have a hot shower and choices to live a free life.
AMC's Western "Hell on Wheels" (9 p.m. Nov. 6) uses the graft laden and U.S. taxpayer fleecing true accounts of the building of the Union Pacific railroad, bringing the story of broken America post Civil War - set in 1865 - vividly to life.
Former tobacco farmer turned Confederate soldier Cullen Bohannan (Anson Mount) is hunting down the group of Union soldiers who raped and murdered his wife. His search leads him to Hell on Wheels.
The township Hell on Wheels is a muddy, filthy tent city with a cast of characters that feed off each other replete with its own overlord: A dentist-turned-railroad-baron Thomas “Doc” Durant (Colm Meaney) who shows how even the earliest rich bastards stole tax funds from government programs meant to help develop our country, instead lining their own pockets. Little has changed since this time period.
The location is near "savage ridden" outlaying territory near Council Bluffs, Iowa, as Cullen, though fast-thinking avoids being killed himself and becomes a foreman supervising former slaves, including Elam Ferguson (Common), who is ballsy, and takes a shine to a white prostitute, enslaved by Indians and given disfiguring marks.
Durant’s chief surveyor Robert Bell is attacked and killed by Cheyenne Indians in Nebraska, in front of his plucky English bride who dispatches one Indian in one of the more gruesome scenes of the series.
Lily Bell (Dominique McElligott), so far ( I have seen 6 episodes) is the one non sex worker in the encampment of Hell on Wheels. The only other women in this series are the camp-town ladies. Both Bohannon and Durant have their eye on the new widow.
A pair of enterprising Irish brothers on the run from some malfeasance in Boston are entertaining, as they put on a sentimental slide show to appease the loneliness of the Irish workers who were transcripted to build these railroads too.
The juice in "Hell" is one laconic matter-of-fact corrupt Norwegian, named "The Swede" - Tor Gundersen (Christopher Heyerdahl), who lectures Bohannon on “immoral mathematics” and extracts money from everyone like a Norse mafia Don.
The series was enjoyable but made me miss "Deadwood," which crackled with Ian McShane as the main antagonist.
Time will tell if "Hell on Wheels" can chug up that mountainside.