That CBS’ hokey “Hack” tries to reproduce some of the style and tone of “Taxi Driver” is among the great foolish ventures in TV history. Martin Scorsese’s American classic is obviously the inspiration for this silly drama, a revenge fantasy wrecked by the notion that a deadbeat Philadelphia cabbie is the world’s best crime-solver. The pairing of David Morse and Andre Braugher is certainly promising, but they’re working with some very embarrassing material here.
Whether it’s “paying homage” to the 1976 pic or simply ripping it off, “Hack” has major problems: Thomas Carter’s wooden direction; writer-creator David Koepp’s heavy-handed dialogue; and the cliched notion that professional drivers have more smarts and sophistication than the public thinks. All of this is wrapped into an outrageous narrative that, right off the bat, has more potholes than the grimy streets it features.
Morse is Mike Olshansky, a divorced father who left the police force in disgrace after stealing money from a bust. Now reduced to double shifts, bad food and a point-spread addiction, he has committed himself to catching pervs and killers.
This means, of course, that everybody who gets into the back seat will have some amazing dramatic history. No boring people allowed — just folks who require the services of a rogue agent who will break the law in order to ensure justice.
Debut fare, for instance, is Paul Goodman (Conor O’Farrell), a verbally abusive minister who has arrived in the city to look for his abducted daughter. Seems she was lured over the Internet by a man who has presumably taken her as a sex hostage and, when the clergyman finds out that Olshansky can assist him, they bond via guns and violence.
Mike, meanwhile, is still linked to local officials, although in a roundabout way: Best friend Marcellus (Braugher) is an investigator and, though hesitant, becomes his biggest champion. Marcellus gathers information, provides moral support and gives him leads that bring down the city’s sickos.
Besides the fact that there has to be an unusually high percentage of astonishingly complex felonies taking place, the mere idea that an ex-cop would be so vigilant without even showing up on the radar of authorities is a joke. He kicks in doors, busts windows and threatens people all over town, yet he asks his “clients” not to mention his name, and auds are expected to believe that he’ll get away with it.
The perfs are fine, but that’s really not much of a help. Morse, so solid as a supporting actor in everything from “The Green Mile” to “Contact,” sulks through some inflated exchanges (his attempt to get into a perp’s home by speaking like a pimp is a low light), and Braugher is strangely absent from the pilot episode save for a short, five-minute appearance — his role, apparently, will grow.
Tech credits are overblown, especially when lenser Ken Kelsch takes bleached-out side shots of the car in motion, a stunt better reserved for HBO’s tacky “Taxicab Confessions” series.