TV Preview

'Kill Point': Counting on a Captive Audience, Too

By John Maynard
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, July 21, 2007

Two imposing hurdles immediately stand before Spike TV's new miniseries, "The Kill Point": The show attempts to remake "Dog Day Afternoon," and it aims to keep a hostage crisis compelling for eight hours.

Although it's too early to judge whether "Kill Point" will clear either bar, the first two hours of the show (debuting tomorrow night) made available for preview establish that the series, while not flawless, is on the right track to being something special.

The best thing about "Kill Point" is the typically impressive John Leguizamo, who plays Mr. Wolf, an Iraqi war veteran who oversees four accomplices in a botched bank robbery that quickly devolves into a hostage situation.

At times, Leguizamo seems to be channeling Al Pacino, the star of that aforementioned 1975 Sidney Lumet film, with a mixture of manic energy and tenderness toward the hostages. But unlike Pacino's character, who by movie's end wins over nearly all his victims, Leguizamo's character is less clear with his intentions.

Wolf's hostages are wary of him -- as is the viewer. A particularly tense moment at the end of the two-hour opener leaves us wondering where exactly Wolf is heading.

Leguizamo is forced to deal with some awkward dialogue, courtesy of series creator James DeMonaco. A key scene in which we first learn about Wolf's military background turns from dramatic -- as he addresses a crowd that has formed outside the bank -- to cringe-inducing, as he goes on a political rant about the current war.

Opposite Leguizamo is a less impressive but tolerable Donnie Wahlberg as the main hostage negotiator. Wahlberg overindulges as the hard-boiled cop with no tolerance for authority, and he even seems to relish the sometimes cliched dialogue. "This operation is all mine now!" he bellows to an FBI agent who blows a rescue attempt.

But a handful of subplots and some intriguing character development should compel viewers to stick with it. (After tomorrow, "Kill Point" will air in one-hour episodes over the next four Sundays, concluding with the two-hour finale Aug. 26).

Some of the more engaging hostages include a skittish bank manager (Geoffrey Cantor) whose unpredictability could get them all killed; an elderly gay man (Bingo O'Malley) who makes a bold move; and a spacey woman (Jennifer Ferrin) who suffers from a severe case of Stockholm syndrome.

Also keep an eye on a Paris Hilton-type (Christine Evangelista) whose rich daddy (Tobin Bell) is determined to get his daughter freed, the other hostages be damned. "Not every life is of equal value," he tells Wahlberg's negotiator.

Over eight hours, the viewer -- not unlike the hostages -- could start to feel claustrophobic inside the bank, where most of the action occurs. Thank goodness we have Leguizamo to pull us through it.

The Kill Point (two hours) premieres tomorrow night at 9 on Spike TV.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company