Monday, July 30, 2007

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Spike's aiming higher with 'The Kill Point'

As a network known for ultimate fighting and plentiful babes, Spike TV is taking on a loftier pursuit — drama — but making sure to add such male-oriented ingredients as guns, hostages and mano a mano swagger.

The Kill Point, an eight-hour miniseries (first two hours, Sunday, 9 ET/PT), centers on a tense standoff as a group of Iraq veterans turned robbers take hostages in a Pittsburgh bank, trying to figure out some way to evade the police who surround them.

Upcoming hours will feature plot twists and character revelations that should help distinguish Kill Point in a hostage genre featuring such classics as Dog Day Afternoon and The Taking of Pelham One Two Three, says Donnie Wahlberg (Boomtown), who plays police negotiator Horst Cali.

"It's going to keep turning in ways you don't expect," says Wahlberg, who goes head to head with John Leguizamo (ER, Carlito's Way) as the troubled head robber, "Mr. Wolf."

The twists come quickly. Wolf plays for sympathy before the news cameras, stripping down to show war wounds as he talks about how combat soldiers were poorly served. One hostage is the daughter of the richest man in Pittsburgh, whose scheming could interfere with police efforts. And the one robber who escapes rounds up more of Wolf's combat troops, with a domestic urban assault in mind.

"There's a lot of layers, man. It's brilliantly and systematically planned," Leguizamo says.

His character is complex, too, he says. Wolf, whom he describes as an anti-hero, "is not a murderer. He's not a crook. These guys made a bad choice, and he's got to protect his men somehow."

Leguizamo says Kill Point isn't trying to stereotype returning soldiers or their behavior. "They're good guys but they made a bad call, and they happen to have (post-traumatic stress disorder) and they happen to be against the war."

Wahlberg, who acted with Leguizamo in 1998's Body Count, relished their scenes together. "There's a scene in one of the last episodes where we go five minutes without a word. We cut out every line of the dialogue and reshaped the whole thing," he says. "It's guaranteed to be one of the best moments of the whole show."

Spike hopes the two well-regarded actors, along with writer James DeMonaco (The Negotiator) and director Steve Shill (The Tudors, Rome), will help the cable network establish a reputation for quality drama, an accomplishment that has helped others — think FX and The Shield— take off.

"It says a lot about the brand that we're able to attract that level of talent. Actors and creators see an opportunity," Spike general manager Kevin Kay says.

Spike also is launching a reality show, Murder (July 31, 10 ET/PT), in which regular people, guided by homicide detectives, investigate crime scenes a la CSI. And the network is developing an unscripted comedy, The Factory, as it tries to broaden its prime time beyond ultimate fighting (UFC), films and CSI reruns.