When Mr Robot’s Season 2 came to a close in what looked to me like Florida, another slightly less techie show picked up where we left off… Imagine the camera floating away across the parking lot, away from Trenton, Mobley and Leon and landing on Startup’s – Agent Phil Rask…
Here’s the teaser to get whet your appetite:
Startup is Crackle’s brand new show about bit-coin and gangsters and it tells the story of a Floridian FBI Agent, Phil Rask (Freeman) who’s scamming a corrupt banker for millions. When the banker involves his son, Nick Talman (Adam Brody) he must find a way to launder money stolen from Haitian gangsters.
Enter brilliant but crazy hacker and uber-geek, Izzy Morales (Otmara Marrero) with her plans to create a new, anonymous currency “Gencoin”
The pilot episode gets off to a shaky start, including three (of four) steamy sex scenes within the first thirteen minutes! It begins at rapid, yet confusing pace – the first act sees several seemingly unconnected characters going about their thang, even (at one stage) making me ask “who’s he?”… “is that his dad or hers?” – you’ll see what I mean about it being a tad confusing when you watch it.
But after all the set-up, it gives itself chance to breathe with the introduction of an incredibly well-executed five-minute, uninterrupted tracking shot when we meet Little Haiti gang lord Ronald Dacey.
Over the next forty minutes or so, those unconnected, couldn’t-be-more-different character’s lives slowly come together; strands are neatly picked up and tied into a bow and before you know it, BOOM it’s the end of the episode and you’re craving Episode 2.
How is Startup like Mr Robot?
Well, for starters, Startup features hacking, banking, a criminal underground AND bitcoin. How much more like Robot can you get?
Furthermore, it’s tech-oriented. It may not satiate all your haXor needs, but Izzy is a hacker nonetheless. A hacker who also lacks interpersonal skills (it’s a cliche, but it’s true 93.26% of the time!) Izzy doesn’t inhabit the Cyberpunk underground of Neo and (to some extent) Elliot, nor does she pull off the kinda hacks that our boy does – but she is trying to change the world…
“Sometimes one new technological innovation can change the world, and sometimes you need to play in the underground to get it started.”
The main premise of Startup involves Izzy’s digital currency, Gencoin, obviously based on Bitcoin – which features in Phillip Price’s global conspiracy plans.
Just like Dom DiPierro, F.B.I. Agent Phil Rask is on the trail of the hacker, the banker and the criminals… it’s his job to piece all of the breadcrumbs together, just as the audience does. Though we’re always one step ahead.
Following Martin Freeman’s career from The Office (UK) HItchhiker’s Guide, Sherlock, Fargo and Captain America: Civil War and while a likable actor, I always got the impression he was playing himself; meek and mild.
Here, as Agent Phil Rask, he is a genuine threat. Once you adjust to his American accent (not the best, not the worst), you’ll find his friendly smiles followed immediately by that unnerving, in-your-face attitude as completely disarming as we did!
Speaking of performances, Adam Brody and Otmara Marrero put in highly believable performances but the episode bursts into life when Edi Gathegi (Justified, X-Men: First Class) is on screen as Ronny Dacey amongst the squalor of Haitian Miami.
If I had to find a negative way in which Startup is like Mr Robot it’s that both shows sometimes struggle to fill an hour. How they handle this is in very different ways. Mr Robot rehashes familiar ground when Elliot gets into unwinnable arguments with his dead father, but Startup just goes for full-on sex scenes. Hopefully, there will be less in future episodes than in the 54-minute pilot.
How is Startup not like Mr Robot?
The story and filmmaking techniques employed in Startup are much more of a traditional cop versus gangster thriller (albeit with a tech focus) and therefore far less jarring. The storytelling is rooted in reality so don’t go expecting a multi-layered essay on mental health, Elliot’s realistic hacks, nor the antidisestablishmentarianism of Mr Robot.
This show is far less grandiose than Robot, which is sometimes nice as you don’t always feel like your brain is going to melt!
While we’re still not sure of Dom DiPierro’s real motivation, we get to know Phil Rask’s within minutes. He’s a dodgy FBI Agent, on the take and in for millions which, while not wholly original, does add another layer.
Florida is also a lot warmer than the New York blues we’re used to, and there’s more scary yet loveable Haitian gangsters in play here.
I’m sure I’ll have lots more to say, but having only seen the pilot, Startup could still go either way – become the next big thing, like a Mr Robot meets Bloodline or (just as easily) fall by the wayside becoming another sex-filled cyber-crime cop/gangster thriller.
That said, I’m reliably informed by two of my geek-iest friends that the series gets better and better, so why not give it a try for yourself?
Startup is available here or your usual bit torrent sites.
- Mr Robot Hacks does not advocate using bit torrent sites 😉