Saturday, March 13, 2021

Bulletproof: South Africa, on the CW

South Africa has become a popular location for international productions, because of its financial incentives and pool of skilled, English-speaking crew talent. However, the nation still faces a high crime rate and a beleaguered, under-paid police force. That makes it the perfect setting for a special 3-episode “getaway” season for popular wise-cracking British coppers Ronnie Pike and Aaron Bishop. They came for a vacation, but stay to rescue a kidnapped girl in Bulletproof: South Africa, which premieres Monday night on the CW.

Pike finally booked a well-deserved vacation with his wife Arjana and their two daughters—and naturally his partner is tagging along. Bishop is like family, even if the orphaned cop has trouble dealing with that concept. They have a couple pieces of police business to finish before leaving in episode one, which are notably accompanied by Nina Simone’s urgent “Sinnerman.” Of course, they think they can relax once they hit the beach, but viewers know better. The Pikes are happy to see their daughters befriending young Kayla, so they are just as shocked as her parents when she is abducted from the ice cream stand.

It turns out Kayla’s father William works for a De Beers-like gem consortium. Somehow, the kidnappers know his company will be processing a shipment of ultra-rare rubies, so they want him to intercept them, to exchange for his daughter. They strictly warn him not to tell the police and nobody has much confidence in them anyway. However, Bishop and Pike agree to launch their own loose cannon investigation.

Bulletproof franchise never denied its debt of inspiration to Lethal Weapon and they even tip their hat to genre-defining buddy-cop movie in episode one. Maybe it is not blindingly original, but it does what it does very well indeed. The gibes are sharp and the action sequences are big and loud. It has all the elements and they come at viewers fast-and-furious, so to speak.

The chemistry between Ashley Walters and Noel Clarke also still works. They bicker and banter as well as any cop-duo and even somewhat convincingly bluff their way through an awkward timeout in a South African penitentiary. Likewise, as Arjana Pike, Vanessa Vanderpuye manages to roll her eyes at the lads without sounding stuffy or scoldy. The case itself is not especially complex, but Paul du Toit brings some unexpected subtlety and dimension to Dewald, the twitchy-acting Cape Town inspector.

Sarmad Masud (who helmed all three installments) never lets things drag and he fully capitalizes on the striking Cape Town locations. It always looks good and the new setting adds a jolt of energy to the tried-and-true formula. Recommended for cop show fans,
Bulletproof: South Africa starts this coming Monday (3/15), on the CW.