The Brink: Is Jack Black's New War Comedy Da Bomb or Just a Bomb?

In HBO’s The Brink, which premiered Sunday, a low-level bureaucrat, a drug-dealing navy commander and the U.S. Secretary of State were faced with the rise of a schizophrenic dictator and the dawn of World War III.

The dark comedy, starring Jack Black (School of Rock), Tim Robbins (Mystic River) and a pornstache-less Pablo Schreiber (Orange Is the New Black), is meant to serve as an over-the-top satire on present-day geopolitical affairs. Unfortunately, its heightened reality and trio of drugged-up caricatures make it hard to see how the overall product will play out as anything more than some warped fantasy.

Let’s introduce the aforementioned clan and the role they play in The Brink‘s international kerfuffle:

Alex Talbot (Black) is a middling State Department employee working at the United States embassy in Islamabad. Though he uses his international gig as a chance to score weed and party with local women, he once dreamed of working for the C.I.A. When he and driver Rafiq (The Daily Show‘s Aasif Mandvi) get caught in the midst of a military coup d’etat, they flee to the home Rafiq shares with his parents, his sister and renowned psychologist uncle Hasan to keep from harm’s way. It’s there they learn that the riot was championed by former Pakistani general Umair Zaman (Iqbal Theba, Community), a egomaniacal lunatic once treated by Rafiq’s uncle. Despite losing in his nation’s general election, Zaman has seized control and intends on using nuclear warheads to annihilate Israel in wake of recent drone strikes.

Walter Larson (Robbins) is the Secretary of State under President Navarro (Esai Morales, NYPD Blue). When he isn’t butting heads with Secretary of Defense Grey, he’s cheating on his wife with Asian call girls. He’s called upon by the president when the CIA gets word of the nuclear arsenal’s vulnerability, but his desire to forgo military action is overruled by Israel’s own intentions of launching a preemptive strike should the U.S. refrain from getting involved. Grey’s motion to bomb Pakistan as a preventive measure is ultimately favored by Navarro once Alex faxes over Hasan’s confidential medical records that reveal Zaman himself is a truly loose cannon. Once Walter’s advice is disregarded by POTUS, he alerts assistant Kendra of his intention to go rogue to prevent a mass war from breaking out.

Zeke “Z-Pak” Tilson (Schreiber) is a well-respected lieutenant commander for the United States navy. When he isn’t busy protecting our nation or impregnating the navy’s public affairs officer, he’s dealing pills to fellow servicemen as part of a “covert” operation with ex-wife/supplier Ashley. En route to Islamabad, it becomes clear the pills he and his co-pilot popped prior to takeoff were not Xanax, and their high-as-a-kite, “hell of a ride” to Pakistan continues on with the loopy duo authorized to bomb the residential Pakistani area.

As the episode fades to black on Zeke’s trippy excursion, it immediately becomes clear that The Brink‘s misadventures have only just gotten started. And though the cabler will rollout the 10-episode comedy weekly, it might ultimately be better served as one five-hour binge. We haven’t ruled the war comedy out quite yet, but it’s going to have to be, well, funnier, in subsequent half-hours.

But enough about what we think. What did you make of The Brink? Grade the premiere in our poll and sound off in the comments below.

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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  1. Tom says:

    Should be interesting to see where it goes

  2. Bwhit says:

    I pretty much watched for Pablo Schreiber and his scenes were the only ones that I liked but it’s only the first episode, so I will keep going.

  3. SUSO says:

    When bad shows happen to good actors…

  4. Jay says:

    I think you’re all being a bit harsh. I was laughing pretty consistently -the premise is ridiculous but the cast was funny especially Tim Robbins

  5. those nipples were massive

  6. James D says:

    I thought it was pretty funny. Tim Robbins plays such a good a-hole I think he definitely stole the show. Jack Black was good but he needs to be allowed to let go a little he seemed two up tight which is not his strength as a comedian. they’ve certainly taken themes from Dr. Strangelove, but i guess if you’re going to take from something you might as well take from the best ever. look forward to see how it plays out. it was a lot better than Ballers IMO.

  7. Cherish says:

    The brink was hysterical and probably gave true insight of a few things. Tim Robbins is A STUD!

    • Stranger to this Place says:

      Yeah, when they basically showed him with his drawers dropped, I had to do a double-take — is that a body double? Tim Robbins has always sort of been able to do a bit of a thing with his age; he both aged and didn’t in Shawshank and then you sort of realise that that was over 20 years ago, now, but his body… doesn’t look too essentially different. Good genetics.

      Aging aside, I’ve missed him in dark comedies. Hudsucker Proxy is an underwatched gem of sorts, as overly optimistic ‘feel-good’ movies about the ‘American dream’ go.

  8. I really like Jack Black, but The Brink just brought me to such disappointment, I do not want to go back. A few glimmers of hope at first went downward from there. The shallow portrayal of the President and his Cabinet is what finally did it in, removing any hope of credibility going forward.

    • Heather says:

      Shallow portrayal? Credibility? Did you not realize that this is a black COMEDY? It’s hilarious! Tim Robbins was fantastic as usual.

    • Stranger to this Place says:

      Yet how sure are we that this isn’t really how these sorts of things play out? ;)

      That part reminds me a little bit of that Amazon original series with John Goodman et, al, all playing (iirc) congressmen.

  9. HAP says:

    Duh! It’s a comedy! And hands down the best of the three shows that premiered last night on HBO.

    • Stranger to this Place says:

      Yeah. Ballers was such a disappointment. It’s like they took Entourage, mixed it in with that show from last year that actually had some heart and great moments (“Survivor’s Remorse”), added in The Rock and a couple of characters from 1990s/early 2000s movies about black sports stars, decided a bit of ‘Necessary Roughness’ (the tv show) was needed too, then sort of made you not really care much about any of the characters and thinking… yeesh, what the hell are they doing having him managing money? WHY? WHY? Agent, I’d buy. Coach I’d buy. But what in the world was that? Sad is what it was. And way too grating in the way Entourage was (from a lot of the same people so that part isn’t too surprising).

      At least this show, you care a bit about the characters. I’m not entirely sure if Jack Black pulls his part off quite right yet, but the others do. Reserving judgment on Black for now (he always sort of seems like he’s acting like he’s acting, if that makes sense — there’s just an insincerity about it which plays well at times and at other times seems unbelievable for a role; this is rather the latter. Happy to see Aasif Mahndvi and the one playing his grandfather though (he gets such great character roles).