TV Review: Yellowstone

PLOT: John Dutton (Kevin Costner) owns the largest ranch in North America, and dominates his family, employees, and property like a feudal lord. He finds his way of life under attack when he comes into opposition with the three properties that border him – a national park, an Indian reservation, and a large property owned by a shady land developer (Danny Huston) who wants to turn it into luxury housing.

REVIEW: “Yellowstone” is the Paramount Network’s third major attempt at turning themselves into an original content powerhouse…well, second if you consider that one of their series (the TV reboot of “Heathers”) never made it to air. This follows “Waco”, a short-form mini that starred Taylor Kitsch (in an uncanny turn) as David Koresh, and Michael Shannon. “Yellowstone” has an even bigger star in the guise of living legend Kevin Costner, but like “Waco” it’s something of a mixed bag, although the good far outweighs the bad.

Written and directed by Taylor Sheridan, this being his follow-up to WIND RIVER, it’s definitely as ambitious as anything on the premium networks or streaming, and it feels like Paramount is planting a flag, demanding to be taken seriously as a contender. It even has a surprising number of F-bombs for basic cable, although like “Waco” they may be muted out when they go to air. Certainly, Sheridan makes the most of a big budget and his large canvas, with gorgeous on-location filming in Montana, and lensing by BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD DP Ben Richardson (and a score by feature composer Brian Tyler). Like a lot of other shows, the production values are so high that it’s almost unrecognizable as TV (complete with a variation on the Netflix 2:00:1 aspect ratio) making the line between the two as blurred as ever.

The premise is an intriguing one, with the story of Costner’s King Lear-like Dutton and his battles with the changing face of the nation, including the residents of a Native American reservation, who demand a chance to profit from land that was historically stolen from them. It’s surprising then that Sheridan, who’d you assume was making a really weighty drama, instead gives us something a little trashier. It’s more like an R-rated “Dallas” than WIND RIVER, although considering it’s an ongoing series, that’s not a surprise as they need to hook a broad audience in order to continue.

It definitely helps that they’ve got Costner in the lead, who’s probably the most comfortable-looking in the saddle of all contemporary actors. Like a lot of his best films, it’s western, albeit a modern one – with the 2018 climate a big player in the drama. He’s a combustible guy, but not a straightforward scoundrel either. He dominates his family, including a daughter (Kelly Reilly) who’s a badass business woman with strong appetites, and three sons, including a silver-tongued lawyer (Wes Bentley), a loyal aide (Dave Annable) and a prodigal son (Luke Grimes) who now lives on the reservation with his Native American wife (Kelsey Asbille) and child. While the latter is the most rebellious, he’s also the one Costner sees the most of himself in and loves the most – giving the show its central conflict. Sheridan regular Gil Birmingham also has a strong part as an Indian Nation chief who's more than willing to go mano-a-mano with Dutton, and he should make a worthy on-screen adversary for Costner to play off of.

While mostly a drama, “Yellowstone” does have the odd dose of action, with Grimes playing an ex-SEAL, who’s drawn into a climactic gun battle that leaves several characters you thought were going to be leads dead before the credits roll. This promises that “Yellowstone”, despite the serious subject matter, is still gonna bend over backward to entertain in an adult way, with enough gory action and sex to differentiate this in a big way from dreaded network TV.

So far, I’ve only seen the ninety-minute first episode, but “Yellowstone”, while starting out a little rocky, seems like it’s going to be a fun, highly watchable show. It doesn’t seem like something that will be an Emmy contender (unless it really comes together as the season goes on), but it’s definitely entertaining and should win enough fans to make it a solid hit for the new network. I’m definitely interested in seeing more.

Source: JoBlo.com



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