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Television Review

'Horatio Hornblower' Makes an Action-Packed Return

April 07, 2001|STEVEN LINAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Look lively. "Horatio Hornblower" is about to set sail again.

Returning to A&E in a fine follow-up to 1999's Emmy-winning miniseries, the heroic 19th century naval officer finds himself facing a death sentence in a brisk, authentic adventure based on the books by C.S. Forester.

"Mutiny," the first of two crisply told tales being shown on consecutive Sundays, looks good, moves swiftly, packs plenty of action and supplies swell performances from a sturdy cast headed by Ioan Gruffudd, whose very capable Hornblower clashes with the arrogant Capt. Sawyer (David Warner, sporting a withering glare).

Warner's cunning captain is increasingly irrational on the high seas, not unlike a certain Capt. Bligh, his erratic behavior putting the lives of an undisciplined, rum-filled crew in jeopardy during an eventful voyage in 1802.

Whispers and clandestine meetings abound on the HMS Renown, where Hornblower and his fellow officers covertly huddle, grappling with the momentous decision to have Sawyer declared unfit for command after his unjust treatment of younger seamen and subsequent bouts of paranoia. "I've never seen a man so unstable in his mind," Hornblower declares, knowing that insubordination could have them swinging by the yardarm.

Gruffudd, an appealing Welsh actor who conveys the proper blend of ambition and intelligence, is ideal as the poised protagonist toiling "for the good of the service," ever placing a high priority on the welfare of his mates.

Written by T.R. Bowen and directed by Andrew Grieve, the saga begins and ends with Hornblower in a prison cell. Will our hero be hanged for his drastic actions? Tune in next weekend.

*

* "Horatio Hornblower: Mutiny" can be seen Sunday at 8 p.m. and midnight on A&E. The network has rated it TV-PG (may be unsuitable for young children).

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