AMC’s “Hell On Wheels” is one of the season’s bigger disappointments, a Western mostly about a former Confederate soldier plotting vengeance for the rape and murder of his wife – even as he supervises former slaves building the Union Pacific transcontinental railroad.
It comes to us from brothers Joe and Tony Gayton, who scripted the 2010 Dwayne Johnson vehicle “Faster” (27% positive reviews among top critics on Rotten Tomatoes!). It stars Anson Mount (“Line of Fire,” “Straw Dogs”), Colm Meaney (“Deep Space Nine,” “Get Him To The Greek”), Common (“Terminator Salvation”), Dominique McElligott (“The Philanthropist”) and Ted Levine (“Silence of the Lambs,” “Monk”).
“Wheels” is one of the least politically correct series on American TV. The native Americans are introduced as perfectly despicable bloodthirsty savages, the term “******” finds its way into a lot of dialogue, and there’s even a curse word in the show’s title.
The best thing about its first episode is a harrowing Indian attack. The project struggles, though, almost everywhere else, offering bland characters, clumsy dialogue and plotting that holds few surprises.
Its titles are almost desperately evocative of HBO’s much better “Deadwood.”
(It’s slightly interesting to note that AMC sort of got into the original-drama game in the “Deadwood” era with the 2006 Robert Duvall miniseries “Broken Trail.” Duvall told Howard Stern at the time that he hated “Deadwood,” whose pilot was directed by Walter Hill – the same guy who directed the “Broken Trail.”)