You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

TV Review: ‘Startup’

Sony's Crackle debuts a disposable cyberthriller starring Martin Freeman and Adam Brody

Martin Freeman, Adam Brody, Edi Gathegi, Otmara Marrero

There are four sex scenes in the 54-minute pilot of “Startup.” The drama, from Sony’s streaming platform Crackle, follows an unlikely group of collaborators in Miami who band together to develop a digital currency (akin to the real-life Bitcoin). But this particular founding story is riddled with crime — from the fraudulently obtained funds that comprise GenCorp’s seed money to the crooked FBI agent trying to get his own money back.

This is a weak spine for quite so much fornication, but six-and-a-half minutes in, there’s already two sex scenes; by minute 13, the third. In the first scene of “Startup,” a prostitute/party girl draws a rich old man to a private room so that she can show her assets to the camera. As an act of (presumed) audience’s desires coming to life, the FBI agent walks in and settles down in an armchair to watch, as the nubile nameless woman rides the mostly clothed old man.

“Startup” is a hacking thriller grafted onto an action movie, primarily so that Martin Freeman can walk around menacingly while speaking in an unsettlingly bland American accent. Freeman is the FBI agent — and though one cannot laud his choice of roles, he plays Phil Rask with unsettling repressed anger, a lot of it tied up in resentment towards women. Perhaps that is why episode three opens in a brothel. But it’s also that “Startup” is playing with pornographic imagery because it assumes that is what makes a drama “prestigious,” when in fact it is padding its episodes with pointless, male-gazing sex scenes because it doesn’t know what else to do with all the time it has to fill its 10-episode order.

The odd thing, too, is that Freeman, as the show’s Big Bad, is largely superfluous. The prestige drama tropes swirl around him — antihero! repression! good cop gone bad! — but the actual story seems to run in the other direction. It’s with Nick (Adam Brody), Izzy (Otmara Marrero), and Roland (Edi Gathegi) that the cross-cultural founding of GenCorp emerges, and each supporting character offers different strengths to the plot. Brody is charmingly well-cast as the perpetually clueless guy who mostly succeeds with his good looks; Gathegi is a thrilling performer adding dimension to the thankless role of “thug”; and though Marrero isn’t quite as compelling, her character at least comes part and parcel with a loud and dysfunctional family that is more fun to watch than 90 percent of the rest of the show.

When “Startup” manages to leave its sex scenes behind and gets to creating storytelling around largely unexplored territory in the cinematic universe, it is its smartest and most compelling. The Cuban-American family dynamics and the status of Haitian immigrants in Miami are intriguing; even the cybercurrency babble is at least educational.

Unfortunately, those moments of interest are sporadic. “Startup” otherwise meanders forward with all the grace of a sex-starved teenage boy, skidding from the exotic to the illicit — strip clubs, gangs, prostitutes, cocaine, semiautomatic weapons, and the vaguely rendered imagery of “hacking” — all accompanied by a score that anticipates every major moment with jumpy, excitable strings.

It seems clear that “Start Up” wants to be a kind of “Mr. Robot,” but in the attempt reveals that the USA show’s success isn’t about a collection of buzzwords but about vision and style. “Startup” is by contrast a show with barely a modicum of inspiration. It’s only necessary viewing if you’re curious to see how many drama tropes can be crammed into one show before something vital has to give.


TV Review: 'Startup'

Drama, 10 episodes (3 reviewed): Crackle, Tues. Sept. 6. 60 min.

Crew: Executive producers, Ben Ketai, Tom Forman, Andrew Marcus, Ray Ricord, Gianni Nunnari, Shannon Gaulding

Cast: Martin Freeman, Adam Brody, Edi Gathegi, Otmara Marrero

More TV

  • Guy Fieri Walk of Fame Honor

    Food Network Orders 'Tournament of Champions' With Guy Fieri as Host

    Food Network and celebrity chef Guy Fieri are teaming up again, this time on a culinary competition program. The five-episode “Tournament of Champions” will feature 16 chefs going head-to-head in a series of challenges using ingredients and special cooking tools and equipment  while racing against the clock. The difficulty of the challenges increases with each [...]

  • Daisy May Cooper Signs on for

    Daisy May Cooper Signs on for Baby Cow Comedy 'The Witchfinder' for BBC Two

    Daisy May Cooper, the star of hit BBC comedy “This Country,” is to play a suspected witch being escorted to trial in seventeenth century England in new BBC Two comedy series “The Witchfinder.” Cooper will star alongside actor and comedian Tim Key, who plays a failing witchfinder transporting her to a trial that could change [...]

  • Sky Original Anna

    Sky Sets Post-Apocalyptic Italian Original, 'Anna,' With Wildside Producing (EXCLUSIVE)

    Comcast-backed Sky is making a new Italian original titled “Anna,” centered on a 13-year-old Sicilian girl who must contend with a viral contagion that has killed off all adults on the island. The series, which has echoes of “The Walking Dead” and “Hunger Games,” is based on a book by the same title by author-turned-director [...]

  • The Good Cop

    ‘Fauda’ Producer Yes Studios Develops Comedy Series ‘Shared Spaces’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    Yes Studios, the Israeli production-distribution company behind such hits as “Fauda,” “Your Honor” and “On the Spectrum,” is developing “Shared Spaces,” a high-concept comedy series. “Shared Spaces” is currently in development with the writer-creator Erez Aviram on board. Aviram is the co-creator of the Israeli police comedy “The Good Cop” (pictured) which was adapted in [...]

  • AMERICAN HORROR STORY: 1984 -- Pictured:

    'American Horror Story' Recap: Who Survived to See the 'Red Dawn'?

    SPOILER ALERT: Do not read if you have not yet watched “Red Dawn,” the fifth episode of “American Horror Story: 1984.” After five episodes, “American Horror Story: 1984” is moving onto another day within the story. The sun finally came up in “Red Dawn,” but not every would-be counselor at Camp Redwood survived to see it. [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content