The Wrong Mans’ real strength is timing. The rest of the show meshes together pretty well, but it’s hard to stay with the uneven script and imprecise action sequences, especially as even our protagonists have very little clue as to what’s going on. “Dead Mans” is loaded with a ton of plot devices that keep compounding on top of themselves—the kidnapped wife turns out to be a murderess, the bad guy is actually CIA, oh and now he’s dead, but there’s money in the trunk, and meanwhile Lizzie’s seeing a new guy, but he’s not really her type, so don’t worry, Sam!
Somehow the breakneck pace works in “Dead Mans,” though that’s usually because the writing and direction and editing coalesce in small, perfect moments with really strong construction, held together by long scenes that seem largely useless. You could argue that The Wrong Mans is a tad overwritten—there’s a lot of narrative time spent just on getting characters from A to B, but they’re really just moving about so that the characters can do something hilarious.
Nothing wrong with that, really. It does take an episode or two for that angle to sink in, though. I was impatient for the first two episodes (which Erik Adams reviewed last week) because I couldn’t find the narrative thread to hold on to. Now, in “Dead Mans,” I’ve gotten to the point where I really don’t care what the plot is. So long as I get little moments like Phil telling Sam that their captor/rescuer is “so cool” or Sam discovering hundreds of thousands of pounds as Phil bites into a cracker, the plot can be anything it likes.
The Wrong Mans is mining both those small moments and even the big, action scenes for comedy—an unexpected, different kind of comedy, where it’s funny when someone gets shot, for some reason. That type of humor is hard to find, and it’s like treading a minefield, trying to find the funny in amateur arson or a murdered secret-service agent. But when it works, it’s so, so satisfying—a comedy that makes death seem funny is powerful stuff.
The Wrong Mans manages it. Not every minute of every scene, but it’s kind of there, giving us a hurtling sense of being flung through time and space by the seat of your pants, falling with a conspicuous lack of safety nets. The show accomplishes it by moving fast enough that we never get attached to anyone. Most of the time, we don’t even really learn their names.
“Dead Mans” shakes off the clinging last remnants of the missing-wife plot, ditching the phone MacGuffin, the wife MacGuffin, and the bad guys from the last two episodes. Instead, the guys find themselves in an unpredictable plot involving spies, accused of murder, with an ever-widening ring of dead bodies around them.
It’s lovely how ruthless the editing and writing is in the moments where The Wrong Mans lands. The camera shots, the angles, the sound editing, the careful, nuanced reactions of the actors. It’s sharp and dark, and it practically snaps as it hums. The mood reminds me of Snatch., Guy Ritchie’s action-comedy from 2000. Where it fails is in those moments where it’s getting from one moment of comedy to the next—moments that would be richer with stronger characters or settings. It’s almost there. I could see it getting there in a later episode or a second season.
- Mans. Mans. Seeing the word drives me insane.
- Hey, that’s totally Dougray Scott in an unexpected humorous role? Remember when he was in Ever After? Yeah, me neither.