Seth Rogen and his esteemed writing partner Evan Goldberg hardly stray from controversy and their adaptation of Garth Ennis’ graphic novel Preacher is lockstep with their meta directorial debut This Is The End and their truthfully underwhelming North Korean satire The Interview. The outer-space preface of an entity’s arrival to Africa is weirdly hypnotic with a messiah-esque priest being embodied by a malignant spirit and mid-speech, combusting into blanketing blood on the crowd like a Sam Raimi pinata.
Up until now, Dominic Cooper struck me as a smarmy newcomer who was unjustly heralded as the next superstar. However, as the salt-of-the-earth, binge-drinking title character Jesse Custer, he has been given the role of his young career. He is unusually meek with his parishioners’ attentions drifting into near catatonic states. When he quotes scripture, he doesn’t sound like a matchstick man in a crisis-of-faith.
Oddly enough, Rogen and Goldberg are gonzo journalists for the Wim Wenders vision of Texas as a sun-dappled, sweat-drenched hellhole where alcohol and beach chair-lounging are only methods of layabout recreation. In hindsight, they were ideal candidates for this genre-bending hybrid since their main star nursing a beer as often as they incorporate weed into their stoner comedies.
Of course, this decadent cocktail wouldn’t be complete without a bromance at the center and Preacher’s deadpan Irish colleague Cassidy (Joe Gilgun) is a corker. His skirmish aboard a transcontinental flight is a daffy blast. Instead of an assaultive tour-de-force from start to finish, the duo patiently rachet the lunacy in dribbles. On first sight, the connection between Preacher, the events in Africa, the vampiric Cassidy, Russia and a cornfield-chase flashback is borderline incoherent and it requires some stamina to chain the oblique segments together. Nonetheless, the bulk of the feature-length pilot is devoted to introducing us to these ragtag oddballs.
Sometimes, the implication of doomsday violence is the funniest vantage point such as when Tulip O’Hare (Ruth Negga) is wielding a bazooka outside of a basement and the camera is fixated on the agog expressions of the child bystanders inside. In the midst of such unhinged, jet-black humor, Cooper smartly constrains himself as the stable straight-man. He brings gravitas to cockamamie scenes where Jesse is consoling Arseface (Ian Colletti) over his suicide attempt which left him disfigured like a sphincter. Where most of his peers would be insouciant, Cooper is steadfast in his belief of God.
When the Preacher finally erupts in a barroom brawl, the smirk on Cooper’s face is rib-tickling. With much facilitation by Rogen, Goldberg and Sam Caitlin, the show continues treads down this path of audacious anarchy because I, for one, love the jigsaw-puzzle plotting, Cooper’s stellar conviction and the nonsequitir jokes (ex. The news report about Tom Cruise’s explosion at a Scientology meeting).
Rating: 4.5 out of 5