If you haven’t read, or didn’t like, the book, this “Mosquito Coast” has its charms. Justin Theroux and Melissa George, as Allie and his wife, Margot, work well together. They find some new notes in the familiar action-movie scenario of loving-but-squabbling parents on the run, trying to limit the damage they’re doing to their children. Logan Polish is good as the elder child, an alternately loyal and rebellious daughter.
The Mexican locations, both rural and urban, are photographed in an elegant, sometimes gorgeous (if also somewhat static) fashion. The films of Alejandro González Iñárritu may come to mind; the show’s stylistic ambitions are also signaled by visual references to Orson Welles films like “Touch of Evil” and “The Lady From Shanghai.”
And Cross, who created the series and wrote or co-wrote the first three episodes, is a skilled melodramatist who knows how to keep you hooked into a story, even when it starts to leave reality completely behind (as this one does around Episode 4). The flight of the Foxes brings them into contact with federal agents, human traffickers, border militiamen and drug cartels in a slowly dizzying whirl of coincidence and gratuitous violence.
Looniest, and most entertaining, is the arrival of the always vivid Ian Hart in skinny black suit and fedora, wielding a straight razor and commanding an army of Mexico City street children. Between assassinations, he pecks away at a novel on a vintage Smith Corona, in what one hopes is a Warren Zevon reference.
For those who value common sense and normal psychology, the secrets and thrills of Cross’s “Mosquito Coast,” no matter how artfully presented, probably won’t compensate for its general battiness. And the taste for the lurid that he has demonstrated in his British shows is on regular display here, in flashes of dead-animal grotesquerie, baroque killing methods and a tableau mort out of “Silence of the Lambs.”