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Power: The Complete First Season

Anchor Bay Entertainment // Unrated // May 12, 2015
List Price: $64.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Tyler Foster | posted June 9, 2015 | E-mail the Author
As far back as the 1900s, there have been movies about gangsters. Classics of the genre such as Scarface and White Heat came out in the 1930s, roughly eighty years ago. Since then, we've had numerous additional classics, from The Godfather on down -- one of last year's big awards contenders, A Most Violent Year, was a modification of the mobster movie. We've had plenty of classic television covering the territory as well: "The Sopranos", "Boardwalk Empire", and of course, less traditional gangster shows such as "Sons of Anarchy" and "Justified." To say that the life of a gangster is well-worn territory is probably the understatement of the century. Yet, here's "Power", a new Starz program trying (unsuccessfully) to wring some fresh suspense from the sponge of organized crime.

James "Ghost" St. Patrick (Omari Hardwick) has a gorgeous wife, Tasha (Naturi Naughton), a lovely family, and a high-class job running one of the most successful clubs in New York City. Of course, one doesn't attain all that success without a little hustle, and in Ghost's case, it's becoming the city's most financially successful drug dealer. On the side, he has a network of people running drugs all over the Big Apple, kept in line by himself and his right-hand man and long-time friend Tommy (Joseph Sikora).

The above synopsis is a little light, but it's enough for the premise of a TV show. From that starting line, the show's writing staff can go anywhere, do anything. So where does "Power" choose to go. Well, let's check off the boxes:

One: There is a mole in Ghost's operation, and he has to figure out who it is. The business is hit by a mysterious aggressor, along with some of the other dealers in the city that Ghost is acquainted with. The loss of a day's profits is, unsurprisingly, disappointing to Ghost's supplier, Felipe Lobos (Enrique Murciano). If you suspect that Felipe might put some pressure on Ghost via his family and job security, you win a No-Prize. Aside from the obvious financial and comfort reasons Ghost treasures his job security, there's also the fact that...

Two: Ghost wants out of the life. Surprise! He's tired of having to scheme, backstab, and kill his way up the food chain. Ghost's father was a club owner, and so it's always been Ghost's dream to own a nightclub of his own. Although Tasha is far from convinced, Ghost dreams of running the club as a straight business, but Felipe clearly hopes that Ghost will eventually become a kingpin himself. Ghost finds himself at a crossroads, unsure of how to make his next move, which is perfect timing for...

Three: Ghost's ex-girlfriend Angela (Lela Loren) -- the one that got away -- reappears, popping up in the club. Ghost has not seen her in eighteen years, but try as he might, he instantly finds himself unable to resist the temptation to test the waters, trying to figure out if there's still a spark between them. (In a scene that's not even worth its own number, Tasha spots the two of them getting close five minutes after they run into each other, and quickly begins to tempt an affair of her own with Ghost's driver Shawn, played by Sinqua Walls.) Of course, Ghost's decision to become involved with Angela again will be complicated, because...

Four: Angela is working for the government, assisting in the investigation of Felipe Lobos. Not content with a mere hat trick of gangster cliches, "Power" also goes for the old "one's a cop, the other's a criminal" love affair, along with a little drawn-out suspense as to when Angela will find out about Ghost's true profession. Such a thread also brings along all the baggage of a straight infidelity plot, with Tasha trying to find out more about Angela and wrestling with whether or not Ghost is making her happy anymore.

From the top on down, "Power" is a TV show made up of used parts, pieces we've seen done both better and ad nauseum in other gangster movies and TV shows. I'm hard-pressed to think of a less interesting concept to explore than a man who lives a dual life of class and crime and struggles to juggle the two. Smaller character arcs don't fare any better: we've got the business eating up too much of Ghost's time with Tasha, a growing rift between childhood friends Ghost and Tommy, and strained family dynamic stuff between fathers and sons. Frankly, I'm surprised the show resisted the opportunity to have Tasha discover Ghost's gangster activities -- the one predictable plot beat the show manages to evade. It's fair to say that most of what's aggravating about "Power" is on the page, but the flip side of that is there isn't much to soak in on the screen instead. "Power" has a glossy look and generates some strong sexual chemistry when it wants to, but there isn't anything particularly unique or impressive about the way it looks, either. It features a cast doing a decent job delivering undercooked dialogue and stale plot devices. It's even got a bland title. One word: "Power." Sadly, the show doesn't pack any.

The Blu-ray
Starz offers "Power" in a two-disc eco-friendly Blu-ray case, with a slipcover that shows off the DUALITY of Ghost. There is no insert inside the case.

The Video and Audio
To my eyes, the 1.78:1 1080p AVC presentation is a little too dark. Shadows in Ghost's dark nightclub tend to crush, although the shadows aren't so steep as to create artifacts or banding. Brighter scenes offer more of an HD-level pop, but the crisp detail is accompanied by a bland color palette that tends toward gray or a "classy" golden brown. Slick, but fairly one-note, a look that becomes monotonous after a couple of episodes. Sound is a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 lossless soundtrack that captures the show's varying degrees of intensity well, including a few brutal attacks, shootings, and other gangster action, as well as intimate dialogue moments and the occasional eerie silence. You also get to hear the theme song, by producer 50 Cent, which has a nice roundness in high-def. English captions for the deaf and hard of hearing and Spanish subtitles are also provided.

The Extras
A series of extremely short promotional featurettes make up the season's extras. "The New Series" (2:02), "The Style of 'Power'" (1:47), "NYC: The City of 'Power'" (2:02), and "The Music of 'Power'" (2:02) are all slick talking-head pieces with clips and a surface evaluation of the subject matter at hand and how it relates to the show's characters, themes, or story. Nothing particularly interesting, although watching all four of them won't even eat up ten minutes of your time. All four are presented in HD.

As "Power" began to reveal its plot threads to me, I had a sinking feeling that only deepened as the show continued. Within the past year and a half, "Breaking Bad", "Boardwalk Empire", and "Sons of Anarchy" finished their runs, and HBO has brought "The Wire" and "The Sopranos" to Blu-ray. I have not seen most of these shows, yet I have no doubt a single episode of any of them has more creativity and innovation than the entire first season of "Power." Skip it.

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