Like the original series on which it’s based, Hawaii 5-0 knows exactly what it is: a testosterone-heavy mix of bromance and gunplay, with broad-shouldered men (and, in the case of this latest incarnation, one bikini-clad babe) taking down bad guys in a tropical paradise. Aussie import Alex O’Loughlin takes over the role of Steve McGarrett, made famous by lantern-jawed actor Jack Lord. McGarrett is the head of a four-man team of law enforcement officers who answer only to the governor (Jean Smart). What this means, based on the kill-heavy premiere, is that the members of this special squad get to unholster their weapons and mow down crooks with impunity.
The action scenes come fast and furious, and while they’re well-choreographed and competently shot, their frequency is a little exhausting. Too much happens too fast, and what gets lost is any sense of narrative cohesion or character development; the über-villain of the pilot (an underutilized James Marsters) has two short scenes, neither of which shed any light on what he’s up to exactly. The original series, despite its macho star, had a laidback charm, and it’s clear from the pilot that the new version’s creators, Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci, plan on injecting plenty of tongue-in-cheek snark into the proceedings. Scott Caan, who plays Detective Danny Williams (better known as Danno), looks to be the cast member who will be asked to carry the majority of the comedy load. He’s effortlessly funny as a Hawaii-hating single dad who’s recruited against his will into McGarrett’s squad.
It’s too early to tell how the other cast members will fare. O’Loughlin, his character emotionally traumatized before the opening credits roll, is all tight-lipped rage. Lost‘s Daniel Dae Kim takes over the role of the unfortunately named Chin Ho Kelly, successfully transitioning from one Hawaii-filmed show to another (this is no time to put a house on the market). The team is rounded out with Grace Park (one of the few weak actors on Battlestar Galactica) as Kona, a character that was a man in the original series. She’s Kelly’s cousin, fresh out of police academy, and naturally versed in the art of ass-kicking villains twice her size. It’s clear from the casting that the creators were hoping to shake up the dynamics of the original series, but they could have gone much further; O’Loughlin’s one-note performance makes me wonder if Caan or Kim would have made better leading men for the series.
Hawaii 5-0‘s pilot was directed by Len Wiseman, a big-screen director whose most recent credit is Live Free or Die Hard, a film that made the previous entries in the Die Hard franchise look restrained by comparison. He’s probably the reason the episode looks so good (the colors of Honolulu pop) and he’s probably also the reason it feels like the show is trying too hard, making sure that enough banter and gunplay as possible is jammed between commercial breaks. Hopefully the hyperactive series will mellow into a slightly less frenetic version of itself—out of budget necessity, if nothing else.