By Verne Gay
Expect a lot of chatty trash-talking in the miniseries.
HBO is kicking off the beginning of its ‘Generation Kill’ miniseries.
The dramatization was adapted by David Simon and Ed Burns (”The Wire”) from Evan Wright’s book and Rolling Stone magazine series. Wright was embedded with the U.S. First Recon Marines, or the fabled “Tip of the Spear,” one of the first strike forces in the Iraq invasion.
Tonight’s episode begins at staging ground Camp Mathilda where viewers meet the heroes — a pack of almost elegiacally tough guys who curse with percussive abandon.
The First Recon’s Bravo and Alpha companies later fight their way to the outskirts of Nasiriyah, secure an airfield and bridges, endure ferocious firefights, and finally enter Baghdad, where Wright, aka “Scribe” (Lee Tergesen, “Oz”), says goodbye.
As a viewing experience, there are swaths of boredom interspersed with blood-pumping moments of terror and confusion.
Masterfully choreographed battle scenes lard the chaos of action with the chaos of sound — the plink of metal on metal, and rocket-propelled grenade launcher bursts, mixed with a cacophony of angry, confused male voices demanding, cajoling, coercing.
Otherwise, “Gen Kill” is very chatty. Forget your John Wayne silent-warrior type: These guys trash-talk constantly, observe obsessively (”We’re perfectly tuned Ferraris in a demolition derby”) and mostly just wonder about faulty or incomplete “intel.”
Stuff, often terrible stuff, happens and no one is quite certain why. “Damn,” as one grunt puts it. “We keep making the same [expletive] mistakes.”
Desperate for buzz, HBO has deployed a buzz saw that demolishes whatever vestigial notion viewers had — or ever had — about the glory and romance of war, this one in particular.
However, you also get the sense that the filmmakers’ vision and Wright’s are never quite in sync — or perhaps are in sync too perfectly. Begs the question, then, why pick Simon and Burns for the job when any competent filmmaker would do?
These two are so specifically authorial, with their own vision of what’s right and wrong, and a keen sense of the general indifference of the universe, that you expect their voices to come bursting through at any moment.
But they hardly ever do. War is hell. We get that. This war is particularly hellish (we get that, too, and so did FX’s “Over There”).
But what do they have to say about it? God knows, no one wanted them to turn Wright’s brilliant work into some sort of blowtorch, like “Redacted” or “Full Metal Jacket,” but you do want something else. Something else never comes.
X“Generation Kill”: Seven-hour miniseries premieres Sunday at 9 p.m. on HBO, then successive Sundays through August.