'The Red Road' review: Harrowing Jason Momoa in Sundance show that demands patience

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Julianne Nicholson in a scene from Julianne Nicholson in a scene from "The Red Road," a series premiering at 9 p.m. EST Feb. 27, 2014 on the Sundance channel. Photo Credit: AP / James Minchin

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REVIEW

THE SHOW "The Red Road"

WHEN|WHERE Thursday night at 9 on Sundance

WHAT IT'S ABOUT In a wooded corner of northwestern New Jersey, racial tensions are re-aggravated between local whites and the Lenape tribe, when one night an American Indian boy is run over and seriously injured by the wife of one of the local cops, Harold Jensen (Martin Henderson). Jensen will do anything to protect his wife, Jean (Julianne Nicholson), a recovering alcoholic, and that's where Philip Kopus (Jason Momoa, "Game of Thrones") comes in. An ex-con and recidivist of the first order, Kopus is running the illicit oxy trade in the area. He is also a Lenape, with old and fraught ties to Jean.

MY SAY "The red road" means the path of spiritual enlightenment, or enrichment -- a major construct of this Sundance original and possibly even the key to this intriguing psychological crime drama. But because it's never explained or even referred to in the series, it might be helpful to hold on to this definition in the back of your mind if you decide to watch -- and you should.

Some of the Lenape here -- Kopus above all -- have veered off the "red road," but some of the whites have, too. They're all spiritually adrift in a remote corner of Jersey that's scarred by abandoned factories, and where the ground itself is soaked with their poisonous discharge. As antagonists, Jensen and Kopus are polar opposites, but they are also mirror images. One is the yin to the other's yang -- one good, one bad, with the moral boundaries between both muddled, or entirely erased in spots. They also despise, but need, each other. "The Red Road," you quickly suspect, will not end happily. (The first season airs over six episodes.)

As a viewing experience, "The Red Road" moves deliberately, at times languidly, and at other times pulls to a dead stop. But there's some excellence here -- above all, Momoa's harrowing performance. He's not alone: The cast is jam-packed with good actors -- including Tamara Tunie ("Law & Order: SVU") and Tom Sizemore ("Saving Private Ryan") as a paunchy, addled reprobate -- and good performances.

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BOTTOM LINE "The Red Road" demands patience, but from what I've seen, it strongly suggests that will be rewarded.

GRADE B+

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