This new police drama boasts a solid enough pedigree.
Rebel, BET’s latest scripted entry, was created by John Singleton — the director of the acclaimed 1991 film Boyz n the Hood, not to mention such hits like Shaft, Baby Boy, and 2 Fast 2 Furious. And on top of that, the series features the likes of Giancarlo Esposito (Breaking Bad), rapper-actor Cliff “Method Man” Smith (Wu-Tang Clan, How High), and Danielle Moné Truitt as tough-as-nails Oakland police investigator Rebel Knight.
On paper, that seems like a hard-charging cop show I’d want to watch. In reality, Rebel is a clichéd, melodramatic mess of a show with too few bright spots. The premiere, clocking in at two hours, lays out an intriguing premise: Rebel’s brother has been killed by fellow cops, and her determination to get to the bottom of what happened puts her squarely at odds with the rest of the department. It’s the kind of current events-tinged plotline that viewers can’t seem to get enough of these days, yet Rebel squanders that promising foundation with cringeworthy dialogue, some unbelievable scenarios, and messy pacing (including an odd Cinemax-worthy sex scene randomly inserted in the middle of the pilot).
It’s a shame, too — the actors are doing all they can to elevate the series, with spirited performances from nearly all its players, particularly Truitt and Esposito. The show has a cool throwback veneer, somewhere between ’70s action film and hardboiled detective drama. There’s plenty of pulp here, earning the show some crucial genre/style points. Mostly, though, Rebel fails to engage viewers in any real way. C
Rebel premieres on BET Tuesday at 10 p.m. ET.