Ever hear of the El Rey Network? As far as I know it is available on Xfinity, Time Warner, Cox Cable, and is a new network created by Robert Rodriguez, king of the grindhouse flicks. The subtitle of the network is:
Where Fans, aficionados, and Rebels Come For a Fix of Bullets, Blood, and Babes.
The El Rey premiered its brand new original series tonight called Matador. Following just two days after the World Cup concluded, the series is positioned to be of immediate interest to soccer/futbol fans with a healthy serving of espionage and babes as the network proclaims. From the network’s own overview of the show:
“Matador” stars Tony Bravo, a DEA Agent from Boyle Heights who’s recruited by a little known branch of the CIA for a top-secret mission: investigate the LA Riot by going undercover as one of their players. Tony will need the espionage skills to impress his handlers and some fast footwork to make the team, or the beautiful game would end in sudden death. Is Tony in for the win?
Said in my own words, Gabriel Luna stars as Tony Bravo, a DEA agent out of East Los Angeles, specifically Boyle Heights. As the show opens he and two other dudes are registering at one of the swank hotels in Baja. Two of them look confident, and one looks nervous. The two confident ones are DEA and they’re positioned to do a BUY and BUST with some Euro psycho-drug merchant. It goes south, there’s a shoot out, a chase, and we later come to learn that the chase was recorded by a big time eye-in-the-sky satellite, owned an operated by The Company – which is CIA to you and me.
Anyway, the CIA handlers, Annie (Nicky Whelan) and Noah (Neil Hopkins) liked his speed and his undercover background.
They’ve been tracking the owner of the LA Riot – a professional soccer team who is owned by a mogul who also owns a huge telecom/media conglomerate. Alfred Molina plays this guy called Andres Galan. Galan is suspected of arms, drug, and human trafficking and worse. He is considered to be a major player in the game of geo-politics, a difference maker. In short – the bad guy. He’s also got a hot-to-trot daughter called Senna played by Yvette Monreal…
… and there’s a henchman worth mentioning called Samuel. We will meet him at Galan’s mansion in LA then before your know it, he’s deep in the jungles of Bagan, Myanmar (Burma). The role is played by Louis Ozawa Changchien who might remind of the Brazilian soccer star Neymar Jr.
Here’s the plan. The CIA handlers know there is an opening on the local professional soccer team, the LA Riot, and the team is holding open tryouts. While Bravo has 4.3/40 speed, his soccer skills have really eroded. They bring in a coach to give him a crash course in soccer, and they get him into the tryouts.
There he has to deal with the Riot’s defender named Zupan. This guy is so bad he collects soccer red cards by the basket full – 7 at last count. When you are rushing up field with the ball, he’s going to separate you from the ball, or give you a separated shoulder, a broken clavicle, or worse. On the LA Riot, he’s not known as a skilled player, he’s known as the one who sells tickets as violence over skills is his method.
So our guy Tony Bravo (sounds like Johnny Utah doesn’t it) has to navigate his way through Zupan, make it to round two of the tryout (which they call making the cut) as well as perform a mission at the Riot’s kickoff party
which involves stealing some codes a la something that Tom Cruise would have to pull off in a Mission Impossible movie LA-style rather than some place like Prague.
Okay, there’s your set up.
The series is passable as it contains espionage, violence, a bit of skin, and lots of macho stuff. While El Rey may call it original, you have to consider that they mean it in the proprietary sense. In my opinion there’s enough of a mixture of high-octane violence, some exciting women, and a good bit of don’t-take-this-seriously. We want to entertain and give you a few chuckles here and there, so you can overlook the fact that this series is far from original in terms of ideas.
While Bravo and his family are Latino, he doesn’t speak anything except English. Not spanglish – but real honest to goodness English. Luna is 32 years old and he securely fits into the Benjamin Bratt mold. Nicky Whelan is from Australia but you wouldn’t know it. I don’t know a thing about Neil Hopkins who plays Noah other than he had a long gig on the series Lost.
Which brings us to Alfred Molina. We go back a long way with him. He ended up on the wrong end of a number of sharply pointed sticks as Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark opened. That was 1981. A bit more recently Molina co-starred in Spider-Man 2 as Doc Ock/Dr. Octavio Octavius. He’s got the size and enough menace to come off as an excellent villain.
Check out the trailer:
I’ll give the show a passing grade and will be back to see how brave Bravo is in Episode Two where you can be sure the risks will be greater.