TV review: Bullet in the Face

From the August 16, 2012 edition

“Bullet in the Face” is, hands down, one of the strangest things I’ve ever watched. It’s a black comedy that has clearly drawn inspiration from the Nicolas Cage/John Travolta absurdist action-fest “Face/Off.”

Gunter Vogler (Max Williams) is a sadistic criminal who works for crime boss Heinrich Tannhauser (Eddie Izzard). After a robbery, in which Gunter mows down a cop and then has his face blown off by supposed partner and lover Martine (Kate Kelton), Gunter awakes in the hospital months later with the face of the cop he executed.

Gunter, posing as a cop, is now tasked with bringing down Tannhauser and rival crime lord Racken (Eric Roberts). Because Gunter enjoys chaos and revenge, he takes the badge and gun of the man he shot, much to the disgust of his new partner, Karl (Neil Napier).

Williams is balls-out insane here — the alternately over-the-top hilarious and frightening facial expressions and German accent are a perfect match — and he plays Gunter’s sociopathic ills to the hilt. It’s a captivatingly WTF performance, but it’s not even the best on the show. Napier’s deadpan portrayal of Karl, the most literal cop ever — “Freeze! Drop It! I mean the gun.” — is pure bliss. Rounded out with Izzard’s egomaniacal Tannhauser and Kelton’s devious Martine, this cast is strong.

The absurdist tone throughout “Bullet in the Face” helps the black, ultra-violent comedy work, and it makes the intentionally contrived noir storytelling and shocking twists feel more fun than distracting. Just be warned, this is one eff’d-up show to consume, especially considering it’s airing in two three-episode chunks over two nights.