In the first 12 minutes or so of the new Hulu show “Hard Sun,” there is an attempted murder, a robbery by shotgun, and a body falls out of a tall apartment building and gets impaled on a tree.
Then things really get grim.
“Hard Sun,” premiering Wednesday on Hulu, is a strange mix of gritty British crime drama (think “Luther,” also by “Hard Sun” creator Neil Cross) and an apocalyptic conspiracy thriller like “Stranger Things.”
That guy dangling in the tree was a hacker who had a flash driving dangling from his hand. Sent to investigate are detectives Charlie Hicks (Jim Sturgess) and his new partner Elaine Renko (Aygness Deyn). In a plot twist that’s becoming awfully common on this type of show (see “Cardinal”), Renko is secretly investigating Hicks on behalf of internal affairs for the suspicious death of his former partner. She must be an investigative genius, because in her apartment she has one of those walls covered with photos and little arrows connecting them together.
The flash drive turns out to have some stolen government files on it that suggests all these subplots will be moot in about five years, thanks to a global “extinction-level event.” Once the detectives recover the flash drive, they become the targets of the shadowy MI-5 forces who don’t want to the public to find out that, in the words of David Bowie, “We’ve got five years, what a surprise.” (And yes, that song plays over the closing credits in the first episode.)
“Hard Sun” could be sort of fascinating, in a dark and despairing way, playing traditional cop-show conventions within this doomsday scenario. What would a society be like if it knew the end was near? And what would it be like to be in law enforcement in such a society?
Disappointingly, the show is reluctant to face that future and its implications, instead delivering a relentless stream of ultraviolence clichés with a lot of blood and ominous music. Those first 12 minutes turn out to be no anomaly. With all the murders and shootouts, it’s a wonder anybody will be left alive in five years’ time to see the end of the world. You get numb pretty fast.
Deyn, who was so good in Terence Davies’ “Sunset Song,” is strong as Renko, although somebody should have told her that with her short haircut and hoodie, she looks a lot like Justin Bieber. But Sturgess, who usually plays romantic heroes in movies like “One Day,” feels really miscast as a tough and possibly corrupt cop. The more he shouts his lines, the less convincing he is.
Sturgess’ over-the-top performance feels emblematic of the entire show, which is loud and violent and never stops to think about what it’s doing. This is the way the world ends — not with a whimper, but with a bang-bang-bang.
Also on streaming: Far and way, the best Marvel show on Netflix is “Jessica Jones,” which took the superhero-turned-private eye of the comics and made her an avatar of the #MeToo movement two years before it began. The second season premieres Thursday and is even more engaged with the times, as Jessica (Krysten Ritter) learns about her past.
I didn’t connect with the pilot of “Sneaky Pete,” but maybe it’s time to give it another shot now that the second season premieres on Amazon Prime on Thursday. Giovanni Ribisi plays a con man on the lam who convinces a nice family that he’s their long-lost relative. The ruse lasts, but it looks like Pete’s two worlds are about to converge violently.