On paper, Hap Collins and Leonard Pine really shouldn’t be friends.
The two men, depicted in LaBorde Texas in 1988, don’t have much in common. While Hap (James Purefoy) is white, straight and a conscientious objector, Leonard (Michael Kenneth Williams) is black, gay and a Vietnam veteran.
But both have a bond that stems back to childhood which keeps them together as they eke out an existence in the bleak, smoky South.
Barely able to hold down a job and attracting trouble like a magnet, they are drawn to a secret shared by Hap’s ex-wife Trudy (Christina Hendricks): there’s a car sunken at the bottom of a local river, with $1m of missing loot inside.
Initially the hot-tempered Leonard isn’t persuaded by Trudy’s allure. But he knows she is the jaded Hap’s weak point. And he knows logic goes out the window when an erection enters the equation (sorry, there really wasn’t any other way to say it). Talking sense to his friend is futile.
The plot to retrieve said-loot will lead the pair to a a motley crew of outcasts and 60’s drop-outs, plus a pair of murderous psycho-killers. But it’s the connection between the two central characters who -in spite of themselves- keep the spontaneity alive.
This 6 part Sundance TV series, written and developed by Nick Damici and Jim Mickle, is based on novels by Joe R. Lansdale. Its bluesy soundtrack and swamp backdrop is peppered with retro songs by Creedence Clearwater Revival and even Tears for Fears.
Mickle’s direction of the piece shows nice detail for its quirky characters, and an eye for dark comedy. But the energy also rises and falls across the opening episode. It’s hard to know how this will pan out across the series as a whole.
James Purefoy and Michael Kenneth Williams are both solid in the title roles, with Williams suppressing a violent streak in Leonard that plays nicely against type. Former Mad Men star Christina Hendricks slips in perfectly as a femme fatale in the Deep South.
Hap and Leonard is a left-of-centre take on the buddy and mystery genres and therein lies its appeal.
Hap and Leonard airs 8:30pm Thursday on Showcase.