For an assassin, loyalty and treachery dictate life and death
In a BAFTA-winning performance, Edward Woodward (The Equalizer) stars as Callan, a brooding, conscience-stricken assassin for a shadowy British intelligence service so secret it doesn’t have a name.
With the Cold War grinding on, agents from the East and West engage in elaborate deceptions, both sides seeking temporary advantage in an endless struggle. No one plays this game better than Callan. His sharp eyes, steely will, and steady hand with a gun make him a valuable asset to his superior, called Hunter (William Squire, Anne of the Thousand Days). But Callan knows his usefulness could end at any moment--especially with the younger, ruthlessly ambitious agent Cross (Patrick Mower, Target) eager to advance. In this amoral world, where men and women serve only as means to another’s ends, Callan fully understands the consequences of failure, seizing each assignment as one more chance to survive.
DVD FEATURES INCLUDE Callan trivia and biography of Edward Woodward.
The murky world of espionage gets a fascinating and aggressively unheroic treatment in the British series Callan. Callan: Set 1 is actually the third season of this remarkable show from the late 1960s/early '70s; as it begins, agent and assassin David Callan (Edward Woodward) is recovering from being shot in the chest after killing his superior while under the effects of brainwashing. His new boss can’t afford to lose Callan--Callan’s skills are hard to find--but he worries that Callan might have lost his nerve. Callan demonstrates he can still be ruthless, but he suffers from pangs of conscience... and when faced with the grey morality of counterintelligence, makes sometimes futile attempts to balance out the scales of justice.
At first glance, Callan seems like simply a well-made, realistic spy story, in the vein of John le Carre’s intricate novels. But episode after episode subverts your expectations as Callan and his ambitious colleague Cross ruin the lives of innocent people in the name of national security. Callan is a fascinating creation; moody, bad-tempered, prone to treat his flunky/stoolpigeon Lonely (Russell Hunter) with a weird, almost homoerotic mix of possessiveness and abuse. In another actor’s hands, he might be downright unpleasant; but Woodward--who later starred in the series The Equalizer as well as movies like The Wicker Man and Breaker Morant--is a uniquely compelling actor, able to make cruelty and moral queasiness strangely magnetic. Whether he’s planting evidence to ruin a young woman’s engagement or trying to protect a racist politician from assassination, Callan comes across as simultaneously appalling and admirable. Oddly enough, starting with the third season enhances the program, adding to the hidden motives and secret histories. The supporting cast is uniformly superb, particularly Hunter as the squirrelly and aptly-named Lonely, who both loathes and desperately craves the approval of Callan. This series is essential viewing for anyone interested in the spy genre, but may be even more intriguing to people who don’t like tales of ridiculous secret agent derring-do--think of Callan as the anti-James-Bond. --Bret Fetzer