David Mackenzie has been making quite the name for himself over the last few years, and it’s clear that he’s learned quite a lot in the decade or so in which he’s been making features. Where his early, eerie dramas like Young Adam, Hallam Foe, and Asylum lacked for dramatic tension, recent work like Starred Up and Hell or High Water have had the feeling of good pulp novels and have boasted a refined sense of style. Not unlike fellow countryman Danny Boyle, he has a fine ability as a craftsman of genre films and there’s consistently a sense that he’s trying something new in each consecutive picture.
Now, it looks as if the director will be taking those same talents to the small screen. THR reports today that Mackenzie will helm the pilot and produce for USA Networks’ Damnation, a period piece set in America’s heartland circa 1930. Period detail wouldn’t exactly be a new realm for Mackenzie – Asylum is set in the 1950s – but continuing to look at the lives of middle-Americans in such a turbulent era certainly will give him new aesthetic and storytelling challenges to face.
As for USA Networks, the move to hire Mackenzie backs up the promise and ambition that was shown when the network took on Mr. Robot. They are similarly backing a new series with indie director Antonio Campos, of Afterschool, Simon Killer, and the upcoming Christine, called The Sinner, starring and produced by Jessica Biel. If Mr. Robot was any indication, USA Networks may very well be on their way to having a strong original programming line-up on their hands after years of producing enjoyable procedural fluff.
Here’s how THR described the series:
Described as an epic saga of the secret history of the 1930s American heartland, Damnation centers on the mythic conflict and violent struggle between big money and the downtrodden, God and greed, charlatans and prophets. The pilot follows Seth Davenport, a man masquerading as a small town Iowa preacher in the hopes of starting a full-blown insurrection against the status quo. Focused on his mission, he is unaware that an industrialist tycoon has hired a professional strikebreaker named Creeley Turner to stop the uprising by any means necessary. But unbeknown to those around them, these two men already share a secret bloody past.