In the US: Available on Crackle
I’m always a little unsure of 50 Cent’s credentials. I know he’s supposed to have bullets lodged in his tongue or something from his days on the street, but every time I see him, I’m haunted by visions of CB4 – that Chris Rock movie about a group of nice black kids who want to be a rap group but don’t get anywhere until they pretend they were in prison, etc.
Now a TV producer as well as a rap artist, 50 Cent uses his credentials to give us ‘gritty’ shows about gang life and the such that are supposedly terribly authentic but are mainly just terrible. We’ve already had the grimly bad Power and now we have the authentically dreadful The Oath. We start by being told that a goodly proportion of the criminal gangs operating in the US are actually corrupt cops – source (?) – after which we’re introduced to one such gang, consisting of Ryan Kwanten (True Blood), Katrina Law (Arrow), Cory Hardrict and JJ Soria. They rob a bank but unfortunately for them, the FBI are already on to them and have them all arrested.
Soon, Elisabeth Röhm is pressuring them to accept her agent, Arlen Escapeta, as a member of their gang so that together they can take down some bigger crooks. Meanwhile, corrupt cop Sean Bean is in the nick and he has plans of some kind that aren’t quite clear at the moment, mainly because Bean is mumbling his way to the bank and not even trying to pretend to be American.
The Oath has many, many problems. It wants to be rough and tumbly, hard and street, giving the usual street cops with real-world experience out-smarting FBI agents, even those who have years of experience dealing with Rico investigations. But that largely equates into next to no characterisation, obviously plotting, dreadful dialogue and everyone looking like they’ve had the energy sucked out of them by a lifeless script. It is, after all, just a vague attempt to put a spin on Sons of Anarchy.
Of course, you’re supposed to take it on trust that this is what life is like ‘on the streets’. Because 50 Cent says it is. And it’s possible it is – people in real life generally have very bad dialogue. It’s just not much of it rings true. Can you bribe waitresses to slip customers knock-out drugs? Maybe… but how long is she going to keep her job? Doesn’t she have a little more sense of self-preservation? Is a bar full of armed hard nuts really going to allow white supremacists in with gangs of black guys? And if there is a fight, is it really just going to end with a few bleeding noses? It seems unlikely.
Its other problem is that the direction is constantly harking back to much, much better movies in an effort to convince you it’s the same as they are – it’s the CB4 of TV direction. The bank robbery is a pretty poor copy of Heat. The gang are chased through back streets in a direct rip of the chase scene from Kathryn Bigelow’s Point Break. At every turn, you’ll get a sense of déjà vu as you’re reminded of a movie you might have enjoyed.
To be fair, Ryan Kwanten is at least making an effort and Law is light years away from her Arrow role, even if she doesn’t get much to do apart from run and stand around. But the only oath I wanted to swear after watching the first episode is not to watch such a preposterous piece of nonsense.