Amazon has flexed its muscles with military-style action series (see “Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan” and “Reacher”), but “The Terminal List” adds a numbingly simple-minded revenge saga to that subgenre. Despite the promotional benefits of featuring star-producer Chris Pratt as a grittier kind of avenger, this brutal eight-episode slog squanders its talent in front of and behind the camera.
Adapted from a novel by Jack Carr, the series features Pratt as James Reece, a hard-driving Navy SEAL whose platoon is ambushed and decimated during a covert mission. Reece comes home emotionally scarred, before discovering that his unit might have been the victims of an experiment gone wrong, one that has left him dealing with cognitive trauma that clouds his memories.
If that weren’t bad enough, Reece is given additional cause to seek out those responsible, which he does with the help of a friend and former SEAL (Taylor Kitsch) while maintaining contact with an investigative journalist (Constance Wu), who wants the story almost as much as the people who Reece is eliminating want him in custody.
What ensues is a nasty bit of business, as Reece (seemingly possessing a bottomless well of resources, but why sweat the details?) peels back the layers of what transpired, facing a ticking clock in terms of his condition and how long he can remain focused and healthy enough to carry out the task at hand. That road doesn’t exactly follow a straight path, more like a dotted one, with occasional detours to go kill people who emerge as responsible for or complicit in the plot.
Produced by, among others, writer David DiGilio and director Antoine Fuqua (“Training Day”), “The Terminal List” feels cliched in the extreme, from Reece’s flashbacks and cloudy visions to its cynicism surrounding those in power, whether it’s government officials, corporate tycoons or military contractors putting profits and careers ahead of the lives of soldiers.
Taking a break from hanging around with dinosaurs and his Marvel pals, Pratt approaches it all with earnest, square-jawed resolve, but he’s left himself playing a flesh-and-blood terminator with few shades of gray built into the program – a lack of dimension that’s characteristic of the whole exercise.
Indeed, more than anything “The Terminal List” recalls the texture of an old Chuck Norris or Charles Bronson movie, the kind of basic “B” fare that hardly yearned to get stretched out over multiple parts, which is surely a sign of the streaming times if not necessarily of progress.
Such considerations aside, “The Terminal List” represents a bit of a coup for Amazon strictly because of the marquee value of Pratt’s involvement, placing a movie star front and center. Still, with so many superior options leaving this dead-end series off your “watch” list won’t amount to missing much.
“The Terminal List” premieres July 1 on Amazon.