04 May 2008

Sharpe's Regiment

Sharpe’s Regiment Different and Fun

By Kristin Battestella

Now, Now. After eight previous Sharpe episodes, I might be tired of the Napoleon Wars, too. Fortunately, writer Charles Wood and Director Tom Clegg give this British TV adaptation of Bernard Cornwell’s novels a fine change of pace.

When Major Richard Sharpe’s (Sean Bean) South Essex regiment is about to be disbanded, he and Sergeant Harper (Daragh O’Malley) travel back to England to find new recruits. Unfortunately, Sharpe’s old enemy Sir Henry Simmerson (Michael Cochrane) and Secretary of War Lord Fenner (Nicholas Farrell) are up to no good in organizing the South Essex’s second battalion. Simmerson’s niece Jane Gibbons (Abigail Cruttenden) decides to help Sharpe when he and Harper go undercover and reenlist in the second battalion.

There are plenty of ladies in Sharpe’s Regiment, but the politics and 19th century boot camp stylings give this film a different vibe. We’ve seen Sharpe whip his men into shape before. Unfortunately this time, Sharpe and Harper are on the receiving end-and it’s nasty. We only see Spain and the Chosen Men at the beginning and end of the show, but in-between we are treated to period London, high society, and crooked politicians. Its fun to see how Sharpe is treated back home: loved by old friends, hated by politicians, loved by the Prince Regent. Sharpe’s show stopping rescue of the Second Battalion is a fun twist on those unloving Sharpe folks.

Sean Bean shows his worth in Sharpe’s Regiment. We see him living it up in London with a woman or two, but he’s shy before the Regent, unaccustomed to royal balls. Bean gives another dimension to Sharpe as he tries to help the younger recruits who aren’t up to snuff. Likewise Daragh O’Malley expands on the Irish factor of ever loyal Harper. He’s serious, yet full of humor.

Caroline Langrishe as Lady Anne Camoynes is great fun. Her relationship with Sharpe is an unusual one, but she has purpose to her methods. Unfortunately, Abigail Cruttenden is a miss as Jane Gibbons. It’s horrible to dislike Sean Bean’s future wife, but the character is by nature rushed, forced, and the wrong fit for Sharpe. Her wishy washy and whiney ways make it odd that Sharpe would fall for her so quickly-especially since his mild obsession with Jane isn’t explained here as it is in the books. But alas, there’s a few more random women to be had in Regiment, and there’s villains a plenty. All the higher ups are slime, and Cochrane as Simmerson is as slick as ever. It’s great fun to see these ‘filth’ get their due.

The England at home locales is another pleasant change of pace in Sharpe’s Regiment. Some things seem crowded or small scale, but I imagine some of the pubs and salacious alleyways were so. The pomp and ceremony could have been bigger, but it all looks accurate enough. The marshes that Sharpe and Harper give chase through look like a lot of messy fun, and yet they’re picturesque at the same time. Some of it, however, can seem silly: two men besting incompetent pompous snots on horseback over and over again. The costumes are also a bit silly; Golf caps and pom pom balls with white jumpsuits amidst Full Metal Jacket 19th Century style. It’s very strange to see our boys dressed so, even though it allows for plenty of time to get down and dirty. The absurdity is poked at onscreen, and everyone looks to be having fun.

Sharpe’s Regiment is everything this series is about-authentic recreations of Napoleonic England, good boys battling adventure and political intrigue, bad guys getting their due. Available individually or in the series set; Sharpe’s Regiment is an offbeat, but fine edition to the series.

No comments: