Review: ‘Hawaii Five-0′

Saturday, September 18 by

When screenwriters Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman wrote the new Star Trek movie for J.J. Abrams, Trek fans were like, “How can you build the Enterprise on earth? That makes no sense. And Capt. Kirk in a bar fight? Come on.” Then it came out and fans pretty much unanimously agreed, “Thank you for bringing back Star Trek. You did it right. Now what’s the next one about?”

Now the duo is rebooting “Hawaii Five-O,” a TV series everyone’s probably heard of, that ran for much longer than Star Trek, but people probably don’t remember as well. We know the theme song and “Book him, Danno” but there’s not the attachment. The new version plays pretty much like a straight modern action show, but there are enough references and Easter eggs to make it feel special. If you know the original you’ll feel like they got it. If you don’t know the original, you’ll feel like they’re letting you in on a secret.

More after the jump…

It starts with Steve McGarrett (Alex O’Loughlin) on a military convoy with a prisoner. He talks to Victor Hesse (James Marsters) on the phone, who’s got his father hostage. They threaten each other and it leads to a big action scene with a helicopter and explosions and trucks flipping over. It’s funny, 20 years ago that would be a summer movie sequence, now it’s on television.

After that, Governer Jameson (Jean Smart) asks McGarrett to lead a task force on the island. He doesn’t want to at first because he works alone, man. He doesn’t go for these government structures, man. But investigating a crime scene on his own, he runs into Danny Williams (Scott Caan), and the only way he can take over the crime scene is to head the task force and make Williams his partner.

A show like this lives and dies on its characters. They’re not going to reinvent the buddy cop genre, and we probably wouldn’t want them too. It works for a reason, and as long as we can see cool new buddies, we’ll keep watching them. O’Loughlin and Caan establish a great dynamic right away. That’s saying a lot because decades ago we’d give a show weeks to build that up, and now we demand it in the first episode.

McGarrett is a Jack Bauer type, doing things his own way, playing by his own rules. O’Loughlin certainly pulls that off. Williams is a little more by the book, or at least he’s got a longer term plan than just blaze in there and shoot everybody. The point is he’s McGarrett’s foil and they have some funny banter and they hit each other, because that’s what it takes to become friends eventually. You have to hate each other violently and then learn to respect each other.

The task force also lines up Chin Ho Kelly (Daniel Dae Kim) and his cousin, Kona Kalakaua (Grace Park). Chin Ho was in the original series but I don’t know what Kim’s character has in common. Probably nothing more than living in Hawaii. This Chin Ho is a disgraced cop who gets a second chance on McGarrett’s team. Kim gets to speak fluent English and have a good sense of humor. Kono, a hulking dude in the original, is now a surfer babe who’s got her tough girl cred a la “Alias” and gets to wear a bikini a lot.

There are several more big action scenes in the pilot. I’m sure weekly episodes will be limited to one climactic battle, or maybe two, but if you’re looking for exciting cop drama, “Hawaii Five-O” makes a good case for itself. The Hesse case sort of wraps up in the first episode but there’s a chance it’ll come back, so that’s where I see Orci and Kurtzman maybe trying to spin a larger web. There’s also McGarrett’s military past to delve into.

Hawaii looks good. They definitely use it to show exotic locations for busts and interrogations that could only occur on the island. They’ve got the theme song. It’s a little fast so it can fit into a 30 second sequence. They create a new origin story for “Book him, Danno” which is both a spoof and a reinvention. I think “Hawaii Five-O” pretty much got it right.

"Hawaii Five-0" premieres Monday at 10/9c on CBS.