Reviews

‘The Bannen Way’ Packs A Punch

'The Bannen Way' Packs A Punch

The future of television is here in a hot new series starring Mark Gantt and Vanessa Marcil.

The future of television is here. Right here actually. On the internet! New web series are premiering left and right as the availability of high-speed internet increases and broadcast television ratings decrease. Mockumentaries like Dorm Life and online shorts like Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog are among some of the more popular mainstream web series. Soap fans may be familiar with Imaginary Bitches, Gotham or Venice, but these are only a handful of the online series available at the click of a button. One of the fastest growing internet series distributors is known as Crackle.

Sony Pictures Entertainment’s online video network, Crackle, distributes original, digital content as well as select features from Sony’s library of television and films. Crackle offers a variety of genres ranging from comedy, action, sci-fi, horror, music and reality. Originally launched in 2004 under the name “Grouper,” Sony Pictures Entertainment acquired the company in 2006 for an estimated $65 million, a steal when you consider that a) YouTube was purchased by Google for literally $1 billion more and b) all content streamed is owned by Sony and promotes Sony.

Crackle’s latest series, The Bannen Way, premiered on December 29, 2009.  The gritty, high-octane series follows co-writer and co-executive producer Mark Gantt’s Neal Bannen, a charming conman with a police chief pops (Michael Ironside), a mob boss uncle (Robert Forster) and a predilection for brunettes. General Hospital fans will recognize Emmy-winner Vanessa Marcil as Madison, Bannen’s foil and the fast talking con woman who fits the bill for Bannen’s brunette affinity. Madison wants to help Bannen turn things around and leave his life of crime behind. But don’t start thinking she’s your average Brenda Barrett drama queen! This girl is a badass, pick-pocket, gun-toting, devil-may-care type — the perfect match to Gantt’s slick thief. After racking up a serious debt with an irrefutable gangster, all Bannen has to do to get out and get the girl is do one more job for his uncle.

Gantt’s Neal Bannen is a weasel, but not of the slimeball variety. He lives by his grandfather’s code of principles, the titular Bannen Way, which includes maxims ranging from, “A winner knows when to quit, a loser quits too early or too late,” to the wise, “Never be summoned,” to the useful, “When in need appeal to greed.” But it’s evident that Bannen lives according to one of his grandfather’s principles in particular, “Pledge to no one but yourself.” Bannen is smug. He talks like a man who takes what he wants, he doesn’t earn it. His vices – gambling, women – border on addiction. The death of his mother looms over him as she appears by his side to advise him at his low-points. From the get-go, Bannen’s debacherous anti-hero is not exactly the guy you’d root for. He admits he’s f—ed and proceeds to explain his predicament. It’s clear that his smug attitude landed him in hot water, but that’s where the fun begins.

Bannen’s uncle, known only as Mr. B muses, “You know what I like about you, Neal? Even when you’re in a position where you have no choice, you convince yourself that you do.” That sums up this series. We just have to watch as Neal pulls himself out of this mess, but jumps back in for a few more kicks a couple of times on the way out. With the prospects of jail, death and life on the run staring him in the face, Bannen rolls the dice and pushes the envelope even further. He’s got a trio of “hot female assassins” on his trail (led by the impeccable Autumn Reeser of The O.C.), he owes a colossal debt to a gangster by the name of Sonny (Ski Carr), and his police chief dad is ready to throw him in prison for 25 years under the 3-strikes law. But you know what they say? To win big, you’ve got to risk big.

The Bannen Way is directed by Jesse Warren, who co-wrote and co-exec produced with Gantt. It was shot with the hot new Red camera. The series itself looks phenomenal. It’s got most web series you’ve seen beat. Aesthetically, it looks like Nip/Tuck but maintains a heist movie feel. The action series shot in 19 days, but so far, 6 episodes in, it doesn’t show any hint of production rush. If anything, this series offers a production value standard that some of its counterparts are not up to yet. Originally planned to release on January 6, the series early release has been reported to maintain eligibility for the second annual Streamy awards.

Six episodes are currently available on Crackle.com. New episodes of the series premiere weekdays through January 22nd. All 16 episodes run 5-7 minutes long. The series is available on Amazon and iTunes, where it is listed as a movie, which leads me to believe that Sony will eventually release it as a full-length film on DVD. The first five episodes of the series are also available for free via the PlayStation Store and on SonyBRAVIA Internet Video enabled HDTVs.

Stream the series for free here.

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