Picks and Pans Review: Hell Town
NBC (Wednesday, March 6, 9 p.m. ET)
Robert (Baretta) Blake is the sort of priest who slugs a bad guy in the face, then turns the other cheek and slugs that, too. Pat O'Brien or Bing Crosby he ain't. But Blake is actually charming as an ex-con cleric who, like some crude Superman from the wrong side of the planet, fights for truth and justice in the slum he calls home. From the start Hell Town looks different: It's filled with poor people—bums warming themselves by trash-can fires outside the parish house, orphaned children, homeless mothers bunking out on pews—people all but forgotten in such prosperous times as these. They are Blake's flock. In the first half of his movie, he tends to all their traumas: kicking a drug dealer off "my turf," getting a junkie a job, fighting a slumlord, winning cans of chili for his orphans in a pool game. He averts a gang war simply by hugging a thug. The victories come a bit too quickly and easily at first. Later the story turns slightly overlong and overdramatic as Blake rescues a girl from her abusive father. Hell Town could strike a happy medium easily if, as its producers hope, the movie becomes a series next season. It has a lot going for it. In spite of his divey decorum, Blake is plain likable, somebody you root for. And he has a fine ensemble behind him. Hell Town is not as intelligent or gritty as Hill Street Blues, but it is gutsier than Highway to Heaven and more moral than The A-Team. And it's nice to finally see a show that gives you a hero who's unarmed with a cause worth fighting for.
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