Review: Vegas

luke kalamar debuts for pop-break with a review of the new crime drama…

Plot: In 1960’s Las Vegas, Ralph Lamb (Dennis Quaid) is a simple rancher who only wants to live his life in peace with his brother Jack (Jason O’Mara) and son Dixon (Taylor Handley). This peace is repeatedly disrupted by planes carrying a wide assortment of people to the budding city of Las Vegas. One plane, carrying mob boss Vincent Savino (Michael Chiklis), sets Lamb over the edge as he almost loses his entire herd. When the Governor’s daughter is found dead and the sheriff is nowhere to be found, Lamb is called in to find her killer with the help of Assistant District Attorney Katherine O’Connell (Carrie-Anne Moss). This sets into motion a series of events that turn Lamb from a simple rancher into an enemy of the mob.

“Cowboys vs. Bandits” or “Police vs. Mobsters” are premises that have already been used many times in both film and television. So much so that any viewer can accurately predict the path a story will follow. You know that in a typical cowboy-centric story, bandits will openly terrorize a town while the cowboy fights back outside the law. Horse chases are prevalent, as are the occasional shootout with rifles or revolvers. Stories that involve the police going against a mob boss follow a similar formula, except the mob usually has unseen ties that are only revealed until much later. Shootouts usually happen more often with these stories too, along with high speed car chases. Vegas attempts to bring these two premises together with a “Cowboys vs. Mobsters” story. It’s something that hasn’t been done before, and in all honesty, works really well.

The show really has the best of both worlds here. You have the cowboys lead by Lamb who work outside the law and chase people on horses, and mobsters lead by Savino who will do whatever it takes to find success in the budding Sin City. It’s like taking the elements of classic westerns and mob dramas, smashing them together, and using what comes out. As a cowboy, Lamb is not afraid of fighting the mob. He even marches into Savino’s casino, rifle in hand, and ready to throw down if necessary. Similarly, Savino is not afraid to get a little dirty to get what he wants.

In terms of casting, both Quaid and Chiklis fit into their roles perfectly. This is the first time Quaid has had a starring role in a TV series, so I was admittedly concerned with his ability to bring his acting to the small screen. His first film was in 1975, so there is nothing wrong with considering him more of a movie actor than a TV actor. Surprisingly enough, he does a great job portraying a rugged and tough cowboy. As for Chiklis, he already has experience playing an aggressively violent character thanks to The Shield. Having him portray a mob boss makes a lot of sense.

The plot is also unpredictable, which I really love. There is a twist near the end of this episode that I honestly did not see coming. This twist doesn’t only show how much control the mob really has, but also how unpredictable the story can be. I can see a lot of, “You don’t know who you can really trust,” plot elements happening as this series continues. If used properly, this can bring the series some very shocking twists and turns that will keep the audience craving more.

My only gripe with this episode is how the plot kicks off on very flimsy and circumstantial ground. In order to get Lamb to investigate the murder, a deal is made with him that the city government will strive to stop the planes from disturbing Lamb’s ranch. It’s evident in the first couple minutes that Lamb has already tried dealing with the people running the airport in the past. If he had been successful, the show could never happen. Lamb would have never agreed to investigate the murder because his life wasn’t being disturbed. Lamb obviously cares more about his ranch than what goes on in Las Vegas. Considering his new title at the conclusion of the episode, I really hope this element of his character is explored in much greater detail. Having him go from a hardcore rancher to some guardian of Las Vegas without much thought will definitely bring the story down. I’m invested in Lamb the Rancher, who does what he needs because he wants peace at home, not Lamb the Super Cop.

I have high hopes for Vegas. It is difficult to find a standout show among the flurry of crap that regularly premieres every season, but I think Vegas has what it takes to survive. I look forward to seeing next week’s episode!