Steven Soderbergh has struggled through Hollywood for the last 25 years, been one of the best examples of a one for them and one for me director. He struggled for years to get his Liberace biopic Behind the Candelabra because it was consider “too gay” and eventually found the US home for it on HBO, it got a theatrical release in most other territories to outstanding critical and commercial success. Soderbergh has “retired” from filmmaking but has turned his hand to TV and directed all 10 episodes of the Cinemax series The Knick.
The Knick is set in the Knickerboxer hospital in New York City at the turn of the century. Clive Owen plays the star doctor John Thackery who just naturally given the time is also a total cocaine fiend with a bit of opium to bring him down on the side. Dr. Algernon Edwards (Andre Holland) is a black doctor who is forced onto the all white staff by the hospital benefactors and has to fight for respect amongst his other doctors and nurses. During this time the medical world is going through great leaps in technology like the x-ray amongst new medicines being created on a daily basis and Thackery has the drive for new medical innovations.
Clive Owen hasn’t had the easiest time in recent years, he made a real splash in the public consciousness with Sin City and Children of Men in 2005 and 2006 respectively. His career has taken a turn for the worst but his performance in The Knick has all the edge and grit that his most acclaimed worked did and his character arc is so fascinating it’s shaping up to be possibly his career defining role. The supporting cast especially Andre Holland and U2’s Bono’s daughter Eve Hewson are exceptional and despite Max Headroom himself Matt Fewer dying in the pilot he presence is felt throughout the whole season through short flashbacks.
We are now living in a post-True Detective age in television where cinematic atmosphere has crept into an otherwise information based medium. The Knick mostly down to the fact a true auteur is behind the camera it has the atmosphere and mood of his best work and the use of a synthesiser score by frequent collaborator Cliff Martinez (who also scored Drive) makes it feel more like extended cinema than television. It might be too gory and depressing for some but that is what makes it by far the best TV show since the first season of True Detective. The Knick also has enough twists and drama to be totally captivating for the 10 episode length and finishes on such a cynical note that I can’t wait for the 2nd season when it premieres in October.
Television | 2014, USA, UK|15 | 17th August 2015 (UK)|Warner Home Video |Creators: Jack Amiel, Michael Begler | dir.Steven Soderbergh |Grainger Hines, Katrina E. Perkins, Clive Owen | Buy: [Blu-ray] [Region Free]