No one can blame Robert Rodriguez for turning to his own filmography to help launch his El Rey Network, and there’s no denying the name recognition offered by “From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series,” derived from the 1996 movie that previously spawned a couple of cheap direct-to-DVD knockoffs. The problem is the movie’s mashup of two genres — noir-ish crime and monster gore — worked precisely because it was so compact and silly, whereas the results of stretching it out to 10-plus episodes, as Rodriguez and company have done, can’t help but seem pompous and flabby. And unlike the movie’s notorious bar, viewers won’t need to fight their way to an exit.
Unlike many past attempts to create a new mythology around a franchise name (the syndicated “Friday the 13th: The Series” comes to mind), Rodriguez, who wrote and directed the premiere, appears content to simply take every part of the movie and expand it. So the murderous brothers originally played by George Clooney and Quentin Tarantino — now D.J. Cotrona and Zane Holtz, respectively — are in the midst of their crime spree and trying to make it down to Mexico, while the latter experiences eerie visions offering some foreshadowing of what’s to come.
Don Johnson also turns up, briefly, as a Texas Ranger on their tail along with his young partner (Jesse Garcia), who will inherit the task of following the outlaws across the border. Robert Patrick assumes the Harvey Keitel role of the former pastor they kidnap — and he isn’t even in the premiere, offering some clue as to what a protracted journey this threatens to be before they get to the vampire bar where all hell eventually breaks loose.
While the press notes say the more expansive format will allow the series to deepen the tone and explore “the Mesoamerican mythology behind the creatures inside the club,” this is “From Dusk Till Dawn,” for heaven’s sake, not “Gone With the Wind.” If people want to learn something, they’re probably better off watching PBS.
Like any startup, part of the battle for something like El Rey is just getting noticed, and the title (being distributed internationally via Netflix) has accomplished that.
After the plodding premiere, though, all I could think was wake me around the time they get to the snake dance. And maybe not even for that.