Terry Morrow: 'Banshee' may be unlikely, but it's likable

Anthony Starr plays an ex-con who takes over the identity of a small-town sheriff in 'Banshee.'

Anthony Starr plays an ex-con who takes over the identity of a small-town sheriff in "Banshee."

There's "Justified" then there's "Banshee."

That's not a slight to "Banshee," the latest action-drama from Cinemax (debuting 10 p.m. today). "Justified" is intended to be ruthless and dark. "Banshee" is less so, with plot gaps the size of wormholes, but on many levels it works equally as well.

"Banshee" has plenty going for it: a suitable lead (Antony Starr), sharp writing and edgy directing.

The biggest hole is straight-up in the premise. A small Pennsylvania community hires Lucas Hood to be its new sheriff without seeing him first.

Before Hood can make it to town, he's killed, and an ex-con (Starr) takes his place. It's a total implausible idea for a town these days.

Nonetheless, "Banshee" expects us to buy into the idea.

And the strangest part? It's not that hard to do.

"Banshee" has a way of rushing past any silliness in its basic concept and soon you don't care how Hood fooled everyone. You're just glad he's in town.

The newly minted sheriff has his hands filled with threats from a local mob who are bullying the Amish, Neo-Nazi skinheads and other bad guys.

A few of the town's colorful population know Hood's true identity, making the whole switch-around all the more compromising.

As always on a show in which compromises of the anti-hero drives the story, plots and characters can add to confusion and sometimes you need a scorecard to keep up.

Fortunately "Banshee" doesn't rest itself on Starr's shoulders alone. A bounty of odd denizens — including a wisecracking cross-dresser — keep the story hopping. If nothing else, "Banshee" screams loud with an outlandish undertone.

Score: 3 stars (out of five)

Terry Morrow may be reached at 865-342-6445 or morrowt@knoxville.com.

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