TV review: ‘Hightown’ is a tale of drugs and murder
“Hightown,” an eight-episode TV series set on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, premieres May 17 on Starz.
There’s been a murder in Truro and it’s up to a disgraced officer in the National Marine Fisheries Service and a rogue Statie to solve it in the Jerry Bruckheimer-produced miniseries “Hightown.” Ambitiously covering a swath of Cape Cod from Wareham to Provincetown, the show claims to be an exposé on the opioid crisis sweeping across the vacation paradise. But don’t fall for it. There’s minimal interest in exploring the timely topic by the show’s creator Rebecca Cutter.
Best known as a writer for Fox’s superhero origin story, “Gotham,” Cutter is less engaged in substance than flaunting flash and angst on the part of a group of largely unknown actors appearing as if they just walked off the Milan runway more than out of the back allies of Wareham. All the better for the show’s prevalent sex scenes between performers looking like they’ve rarely missed a day at Gold’s Gym. If only all fentanyl addicts were this chiseled!
Kudos though to Cutter for making her lead character a ballsy, recovering-alcoholic lesbian in Monica Raymund’s Jackie, a junior officer in the National Marine Fisheries Service whose road to sobriety depends on solving the case of the person, or persons, responsible for the murder of the young woman she finds lying dead on a Truro beach. She has no authority to do this, of course, but when does that stop any TV cop? Also on the case is the legit murder-police rep, Ray (Cutter’s best asset, James Badge Dale), who’s developing a bit of a “Laura” complex by falling for a beautiful stripper - and dutiful mom - in Riley Voelkel’s Renee. She, of course, is married to the imprisoned drug dealer, Frankie (Amaury Nolasco), with whom she engages in kinky sex during conjugal visits in rooms with signs forbidding “physical contact.”
The show, like every TV cop series since the beginning of time, is pure procedural in which lowlifes of various stations trade snarky dialogue when they’re not beating each other to a pulp - without leaving a single scar or bruise! I told you these people are beautiful! Alas, none of them are what you’d call interesting, which makes investing in them difficult. Heck, you can’t even enjoy much of the Cape’s scenery since the show was filmed, gulp, on Long Island! Damn Yankees!
There are plenty of second-unit shots hovering over Provincetown, the gay enclave Jackie calls home, but that’s about as close as you come to doing it in Massachusetts. Although, high marks to most of the cast, including Jackie’s recovering junkie pal, Junior (Shane Harper), for actually getting the New England accents right for a change.
Due to the late arrival of my screeners, I was only able to fend through the first four episodes, but that’s more than enough to know there’s nothing special about “Hightown” (or, what the kids now call Hyannis) beyond the tough-guy dialogue and undulating flesh of its inhabitants who all seem to be related by one degree of separation. Small world! The goal, as far as I can gather, is to find the one witness to the murder, a young woman named Krista (Crystal Lake Evans) who is also sought by the killer, Osito (Atkins Estimond), a large “scary black man” (their words, not mine) and self-proclaimed king of all Cape dealers.
The locations are overly familiar: crack houses, strip clubs, bars and many a bedroom put to optimum use, but seldom for sleeping. Also of note is the debut of Oscar-nominated cinematographer Rachel Morrison (“Mudbound”) as a director of several episodes. Like with her work on “Black Panther,” she delivers interesting visuals, but she and her fellow directors struggle to lure you into what amounts to the dark underbelly of Cape Cod. Are such places worth a visit? Not really. As always, you’re better off sticking to the beach, where you’re safer swimming with the real sharks.TV Review
Al Alexander may be reached at email@example.com.
Cast includes Monica Raymund, James Badge Dale, Riley Voelkel, Shane Harper, Amaury Nolasco, Atkins Estimond and Crystal Lake Evans. It begins an eight-week run at 8 p.m. Sunday on Starz.