HBO // 2007 // 360 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Tom Becker // August 26th, 2008
Maybe you can have it all.
Everything has been leading up...to this.
The 12-episode Entourage: The Complete Fourth Season focuses on "Medellin," Vince and Eric's dream project about drug lord Pablo Escobar. Vince (Adrian Grenier) is happy to be working with director Billy Walsh (Rhys Coiro, 24), but Eric (Kevin Connolly), who's a producer on the film, loathes the guy.
Their views on Walsh aren't the only differences between these two. After viewing a cut of "Medellin," Vince believes it's a masterpiece, while Eric is deeply unimpressed.
Meanwhile, Vince's brother, Johnny Drama (Kevin Dillon), is now a working actor thanks to his role on the successful series "Five Towns." Turtle (Jerry Ferrara) is...well, still Turtle, back to driving the guys around and getting stoned after his foray into the music business ended.
As for Hollywood super-agent Ari Gold (Jeremy Piven), while he's as nasty and hard-driven as ever, he's not as involved in "Medellin," as he has been in other areas of Vince's career. Instead, this season we're seeing more of Ari's life with his wife and children; needless to say, the Gold home is not a low-stress environment.
There's a lot riding on "Medellin" for everyone. Ari is trying to sell Vince, Eric, and Walsh as a "dream team," something Eric isn't too happy about. Plus, it's hard selling anyone on them without seeing the film, which Walsh is refusing to show.
But then Walsh submits it to Cannes, much to Vince's delight and Eric's horror. If Vince is right, the film will be well-received at Cannes, they'll all be up for awards there and at Oscar time, and they'll be set commercially and artistically.
But if Eric's instincts are right, and the film's not up to snuff, all their careers might be going down.
This season starts out with a great episode, "Welcome to the Jungle," a spot-on, half-hour take off of Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse. That 1991 documentary examined the journey that was the making of Apocalypse Now. "Welcome to the Jungle" is a faux-documentary that follows Vince and the boys and Walsh to Colombia for the making of "Medellin." This is a great little mini-movie, complete with outtakes and effects from the "feature" film; shame on the Emmy nominators for ignoring this one.
Entourage: The Complete Fourth Season is at its best when it sticks with the "Medellin" storyline, which is given a satisfying conclusion at the Cannes film festival. A couple of smaller story arcs -- Ari trying to get his son into a good school and Eric branching out as a manager -- also work well.
In general, this abbreviated season is something of a mixed bag. While there are no horrible episodes, there's nothing particularly outstanding or memorable here either -- except for "Welcome to the Jungle." There are no catchy phrases this time, no "Hug it out, bitch," and nothing as gleefully silly as the previous season's "You got 'Got'!" episode. There's a feeling here that the program is in transition and that this season is functioning as a kind of bridge. The season ends on a downbeat note, so it's likely Season Five will have to take the guys in a different direction, maybe with a little less play and a little more struggle.
HBO gives us a nice set: three discs, Anamorphic transfers, good audio. There are a few extras, including three commentaries with the creator and cast, the best of which is on "Welcome to the Jungle." As far as group commentaries go (three or more people), these are among the best I've heard: very little overlap and hardly any indistinguishable group talk.
The best supplements are the ones that deal with "Medellin." Besides the commentary, there's a "Making of" that focuses on the "Welcome to the Jungle" episode and, of course, the excellent trailer.
When I watched these episodes on HBO in summer 2007, I felt let down. It was as if Entourage had already given everything it had to give and was now just treading water. It was pretty much my interest in finding out how the "Medellin" story played out -- and whether Vince or Eric was right -- that had me tuning in, and the non-"Medellin" stories just seemed like rehashes and time fillers.
Watching these again a year later, I was less unimpressed, though I still think it was the series' weakest season. There are a few things I am hoping will change in Season Five.
Saint Vince. It's possible that the golden boy is just a bit too golden. What, exactly, does this guy do that not only keeps him in the public eye but makes him popular and sought after in the industry and pays him enough to support four lavish lifestyles? Near as I can figure, he made one successful movie -- the blockbuster "Aquaman" -- then walked away from a huge payday for the sequel, ticking off a studio head in the process. Isn't that the kind of thing that gets people blackballed? Wouldn't someone in Vince's position be doing photo ops, interviews, appearances, and whatever else he could to stay in the public eye? Other than working on "Medellion," he spends his time hanging out with his friends, offering the kind of all-purpose comforting words normally heard at an aromatherapy salon -- "It's gonna be fine," "We're good," "It's OK," "It'll work." He's a horndog and a stoner, but he's untouched by scandal, and he moves about easily without trouble or attention from the paparazzi. It's just a bit too much of a fantasy.
Part of the charm of Entourage is that we took it on faith that Vince could actually act or at least had great screen presence. We never found ourselves in the uncomfortable position of watching him do so -- until now. Frankly, he looks ridiculous as Pablo Escobar, a little bit Rupert Pupkin, a little bit Tony Clifton, and the little we see of his performance is not encouraging.
After four seasons, his placid optimism has become grating. Here's hoping that Season Five gives us a Vince who's hungry and passionate, not just this dull and airy pretty boy.
Buffoon Drama Yes, there are an awful lot of preening, self-deluding, aging, one-time up-and-coming actors out there, and in the early seasons, Kevin Dillon's take on this was funny and ballsy. As the show has progressed, however, Johnny Drama has not; we know that this character is going to end up doing or saying something stupid every time. His pretentiousness has become shtick, and Dillon's performance tends to denigrate into mugging. Being on a successful TV show doesn't help -- even when Drama wins, he looks foolish. Maybe it's time for the writers and actor to take it down a couple of notches and stop making Drama the go-to guy for stupid. Perhaps they could start by giving him a more prominent storyline, instead of just having him do the secondary, throwaway stuff.
Warm Ari He was a perfectly rendered picture of a ruthless, soulless, and wildly successful agent, then in the midst of season three, we learned that not only did Ari feel love, but what he felt for Vince and the boys was real love. Since then, we've seen a more humanized Ari. Sometimes, these subplots worked well -- besides the arc about his son, his relationship with his gay assistant, Lloyd, has developed nicely. But Ari also had some pointless side plotting this season, including some idiotic throwback business about his actress wife appearing on a soap opera and kissing a co-star and another retro-feeling story in which his car is mixed up at a restaurant with a top-secret M. Night Shyamalan script in the back seat. Hopefully, Season Five will see the reemergence of the despicable Ari and integrate him back into the main storyline. (By the way, when did Ari start manscaping? I can understand TV-star Piven pumping up his chest, waxing his body hair, and lathering on the bronzer, but this WeHo-inspired look just does not work for the character.)
Walsh He's a rebel! He's a genius! He's an iconoclast! He's the most annoying thing on TV this side of Dina Lohan! He's Walsh, Vince's favorite director and scourge of all things understated. This tweaking of '70s auteurism comes 30 years too late, and the primary target -- Coppola and Apocalypse Now -- has already been over-skewed. I know we're supposed to be amused at Walsh's outrageous, anti-corporate Hollywood, talented and honest but neurotic individualistic antics -- Oh, look, he's wearing a t-shirt that says "Suits Suck!" What a loveable wild man! But when this guy shows up, I just cringe. If only they'd dispatched the obnoxious Walsh at the end of "Welcome to the Jungle," perhaps in a big explosion, we'd have been spared the misery and embarrassment of this asinine take on what a "wacky!" young Hollywood director is really like. With any luck, Cannes will be the last we see of this guy.
While Entourage: The Complete Fourth Season wasn't a high point for the series, it did leave me wanting to see more. I'm looking forward to Season Five and finding out how everything is resolved.
The court's withholding judgment until we see how all this plays out...next season.
Court is adjourned.
Review content copyright © 2008 Tom Becker; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (French)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Spanish)
Running Time: 360 Minutes
Release Year: 2007
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* The Making of "Medellin"
* "Medellin" Trailer
* US Comedy Arts Festival Panel
* Interview with Actor Lucas Ellin
* Episode Recaps
* Season Recaps
* Three Audio Commentaries with Creator/Executive Producer Doug Ellin, Kevin Connolly, Kevin Dillon, Jerry Ferrara, and Adrian Grenier
* Official Site
* Official "Medellin" Site
* DVD Verdict Review - Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse