‘Trackers’ Episode 1 Review: With murder and mayhem, will the Cinemax show dive into black rhino smuggling?
An adaptation of Deon Meyer's crime novel, the series intermingles three story arcs together as it expands into Cape Town's Bo-Kaap and the Zimbabwe border
Spoilers for ‘Trackers’ Episode 1 on Cinemax
Exposing the dark realities of the underbelly of the crime world, ‘Trackers’ begins in Loxton, Karoo, as three motorcycles dart across a dirt road. The tale dives right into a bar where feisty men take a drag on a cigarette. Despite several warnings not to smoke, they harass the young bartender. It is then that a watchful young man, Lemmer (James Gracie Alexander), jumps the gun and bangs one of the men's heads on the table.
A violent storm erupts taking a meteoric rise and stops only when Diederik Brand (Deon Lotz) calms him down. Mysteriously silent with a killer streak, Lemmer is a former Special Forces member and ministerial bodyguard who needs to resolve his anger issues. Over two glasses of beer, Diederik comes up with a proposal. He needs Lemmer's help to transport cargo — which is "nothing illegal" — from the Zimbabwe border back to town. "The answer's still no," Lemmer says.
An adaptation of Deon Meyer's crime novel, the series intermingles three story arcs together as it expands into Cape Town's Bo-Kaap and Beitbridge Border Post, Zimbabwe. Somewhere in the northern suburbs of Cape Town, Milla Strachan (Rolanda Marais) is looking for a fresh start as she flees from her abusive husband, resentful son, and a life of luxury. She interviews for a journalism job in a government agency, and quite surprisingly, gets through. "Can you keep a secret?" she is asked. Her reply stabs like a needle: "That's what I've done for the last two years." What awaits is a riddle yet to be solved.
A shady smuggling deal is held in a dingy room as a man named Ismail (Adrian Alper) spies on them and records it on tape. Alas, his plan fails when his cellphone rings and he goes into hiding. A string of bullets are fired and it leads to an exhilarating chase. An informant for intelligence agent Quinn Makebe (Thapelo Mokoena), the man is shot in his leg but he dashes across the street and is rescued by Makebe.
Back in Karoo, Lemmer — who was initially hesitant — gives the nod to teaming up with Lourens Le Riche (Gerald Steyn) to pick up the shipment from Limpopo and transport it to Zimbabwe. At the Presidential Bureau of Intelligence headed by Janina Mentz (Sandi Schultz), the informant leaks the name of al-Qaeda operative named Suleiman Daoud (Emmanuel Castis) and their plan to bring a huge shipment into the country.
Packed with thrills and chills, 'Trackers' whisks viewers towards a violent conspiracy involving organized crime, state security, and an international terrorist plot. Like a train, the action-packed episode rattles along and Ismail finds his throat slashed by a razor-sharp knife in broad daylight. Another camera is placed to spy on Daoud inside the homes of one of the low-level operatives but it hardly captures anything concrete.
Amid the tension, the president gives an ultimatum to shut down the PBI and going after Daoud seems the last resort to keep the bureau running. Meanwhile, Lemmer and Lourens meet another operative named van Jaarsveld (Trix Vivier) and the three set out on a journey to transport the contraband. As the haunting melody of 'Power' by Charlie Harper plays in the background, the shocking cliffhanger unmasks black rhinos behind the curtains.
With that rousing sensation, the first episode comes to a close. While James Gracie and Thapelo Mokoena take centre stage with their amazing performances, the other actors range from average to mediocre but if well-fleshed out, their characters could hold some grit too. It is the pulsating suspense that keeps the momentum and if personal dynamics are explored well, the series could hit the right chords with audience.
Shot by '13 Reasons Why' fame cinematographer Ivan Strasburg and directed by 'Bordertown' fame Jyri Kähönen, the series boasts spectacular shots and the story carves to a riveting and promising track. Only time will tell how the twists and turns mold the story as the rest of its five episodes roll out.
‘Trackers’ will air weekly on Friday at 10 pm ET/PT on Cinemax.