'The Night Agent' review: A cheesy good fun on the run


The smartphone generation just couldn't get that you need to hold binoculars really close to your face for best results. Photos: Handout

Some days, I really miss Kiefer Sutherland's 24, with its outlandish intrigue, brutal action and counterterrorism agent Jack Bauer's no-time-to-bleed single-mindedness.

How fortunate, then, to end a long fruitless search for bingeable stuff (you know the feeling, right – poring over all those thumbnails and "More Info" snippets for hours until you realise it's time for bed and you haven't settled on a thing) by discovering The Night Agent.

This 10-episode series, based on a novel by thriller writer Matthew Quirk, brought fond memories of 24 flooding back in moments.

After helping to thwart a terror attack, FBI agent Peter Sutherland Jr (Gabriel Basso, Super 8, The Big C) finds himself not lauded or decorated, but consigned to drudge duty.

He's stuck on the graveyard shift manning a hotline for actual Night Agents – covert operatives in the field – to call when they need emergency assistance. It doesn't help that Peter's father, also a Fed, died under a cloud as a suspected traitor and the conspiracy theorists think Junior's heroics are a smokescreen for more treasonous deeds.

Plus, his loyalties are torn between his direct boss deputy director Hawkins (Robert Patrick) and White House chief of staff Dianne Farr (Hong Chau, Watchmen), who at least seems to see his potential after the abovementioned attack.

'Ah, I knew this would come in handy one day... my old '24' full-season plot flowchart.''Ah, I knew this would come in handy one day... my old '24' full-season plot flowchart.'

A call from disgraced tech mogul Rose Larkin (Luciane Buchanan, The New Adventures Of Monkey), who should not even have access to the hotline number, sends Peter down a rabbit hole of intrigue, betrayal, far-reaching conspiracies and dire peril for all concerned.

With these ingredients, its urgent pacing and mini-cliffhangers that keep you hitting the "Next Episode" button without hesitation, The Night Agent truly was, to me, a fine spiritual successor to 24. (And if I needed further evidence of that, DB Woodside – good old "First Brother" Wayne Palmer – shows up a few episodes in.)

Before I pile on too much praise here, it should be said that for all its beloved familiarity, The Night Agent doesn't stray far from the terrorist thriller playbook.

The conspiracy becomes kind of obvious by the midway point, the stock villains lurking in high places don't really stand out, but at least the obligatory romantic elements don't get in the way too much.

Plus there's an extended pursuit of our heroes by a pair of assassins (Eve Harlow and Phoenix Rael) who seem needlessly Tarantino-fied with their casual banter, like a mixed-gender Jules and Vincent minus the "royale" but with plenty of cheese.

'The pandemic really sucked, but all these abandoned and forgotten shipping containers make great props. Free, too.''The pandemic really sucked, but all these abandoned and forgotten shipping containers make great props. Free, too.'

Credit to showrunner Shawn Ryan (The Shield, S.W.A.T.) and his collaborators – including Horrible Bosses and Identity Thief helmer Seth Gordon – then, for their savvy ability to wring the best results out of this formulaic concoction.

Bolstered by Basso's two-fisted earnestness and Buchanan's self-assured spunkiness, and supporting characters who actually add to the story instead of just being decorative (or clutter), The Night Agent proved a quick and easy binge for me.

And familiar as some of its elements may seem, it still yields some surprises, a poignant outcome or two, and mostly satisfying comeuppances all round. Just as its rather likeable hero does, it rises above its constraints and really delivers.

All 10 episodes of The Night Agent are available to stream on Netflix.

8 10

Summary:

All we need now is the CTU ringtone.

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