by Brad Nelson
I watched the first two episodes (available for streaming on Netflix) of the American version of House of Cards. It stars Kevin Spacey as the counterpart of Ian Richardson’s “Francis Urquhart.” The rest of the cast is made up of b-grade (if that) actors (with a couple possible exceptions). This is a made-for-Netflix production and they obviously blew most of their money on getting Spacey.
Even so, Spacey isn’t particularly great in this, although he’s certainly okay. And I count myself a Kevin Spacey fan.
The specifics of this series are a bit different from the original British series, but the point is the same: Spacey, as majority whip in the House, Francis Underwood, is out to exact revenge upon his higher-up rivals. Francis was instrumental in getting the president-elect elected and was promised the post of Secretary of State. But at the last moment the offer was rescinded.
Didn’t these guys see the ruthless Francis Urquhart in the first series? Bad move. This is not a guy you want for an enemy. And as with the original British House of Cards, one of Francis Underwood’s chief means to exact his revenge and forward his political machinations is by taking a young reporter under his wing who he uses for strategic leaking.
We’ll see if some kind of love affair (or infatuation with power on her part) breaks out as it did in the original series. So far, this American reporter, played by Kate Mara, has little of the charm of the original Mattie Storin, played by Susannah Harker. But she’s adequate enough. Again, don’t expect top-notch. These are soap-opera (or Sci-Fi Original Movie…well, maybe not that bad) quality stars.
And Buttercup, of all people, plays Spacey’s wife. I did not recognize Robin Wright. I simply noticed her name in the credits. She’s got a severe look to her, especially with the short “bitch” hair (and I suspect she could excel in this cold-blooded role). She’s arguably the most fleshed-out character in the series thus far.
And the role for the wife-of-Francis has expanded. Mrs. Underwood is in charge of some kind of charity or foundation. That plot line hasn’t gone anywhere and just seems like a needless distraction at this point. Perhaps it’s just a bit of token “equal time for men and women villains” in a nod to political correctness. We’ll see.
And it would appear that Corey Stoll (playing drug-addled Rep. Peter Russo) is the counterpart of Roger O’Neill, one of the characters in the original series who anchored much of the realism and drama of that show. Again, Miles Anderson is clearly heads-and-tails above the performance being given by Corey Stoll. But Stoll is, again, just adequate for the part. He could even ripen a bit into more-than-adequate. We’ll see again.
A bit of the surprise in this series is that Spacey is a Democrat, not an evil Republican. I’m surprised that they didn’t just automatically make the Republicans the bad guys. Francis Urquhart in the original series was a member of the Conservative Party, not Labor. I guess that’s a step up from the usual cliches in this American series.
The story is good enough so far to keep you interested. It’s fun watching Spacey pull his various levers as he sets up revenge step-by-step. And although the cast is a little light in talent, the production values are rather good in terms of just the general look, direction, and cinematography. There’s certainly some talent behind the camera, at least in these first two episodes.
Apparently, House of Cards is right now into its second season. I have no idea if, like the original British series, there is some natural conclusion that limits the series of if they’ll just try to keep it going. For now, I’ll watch a few more episodes and report back. • (249 views)