Tag Archive: crime drama


Review by C.J. Bunce

Hazards of the trade…

It may or may not help you to know that burling is the process of tying up loose ends.  First time director Graham Moore (Oscar-winning writer of The Imitation Game) and Johnathan McClain (Mad Men, Medium, Without a Trace), co-screenplay writer with Moore, come out guns a-blazing in the limited theatrical release The Outfit, now streaming on Peacock.  An exquisite, slow-burning crime drama of deception set in the 1950s, with the then-new FBI technology of planting bugs to trap the Mob, rises to become one of the year’s best films, sure to deliver a second Best Oscar nod come award season for the steady-hand and subtlety of star Mark Rylance.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

After a twelve-year break, the best, award-winning police procedural and crime drama is back.  For twenty seasons Law & Order delivered the best “ripped from the headlines” twists and turns, featuring the best shifting casts, long-term regulars, and returning characters.  Its split episode format with two detectives and assistant district attorneys blended the best of all the cop shows before or since with the #1 series ever created about lawyering (it helped get me through criminal procedure in law school two decades ago, and I’ve seen each of its 456 original episodes at least four times).  Well, now the best is back, with a mix of familiar faces and some promising new ones, beginning with this week’s first episode of its 21st season, a twist on the infamous Bill Cosby and Harvey Weinstein cases.  It’s the return of the best two assistant district attorneys in the history of the show.  And it hasn’t changed a bit–a good thing–like the series kept going after we last watched it way back in 2010.

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Review by Elizabeth C. Bunce

Call it an “upstairs/downstairs” police procedural.  Britbox’s newest original series, The Tower, follows a team of detectives investigating their fellow coppers after an incident on a London rooftop goes horribly awry, resulting in the death of a civilian and a veteran beat cop.  In three short episodes, the story grows increasingly complex as secrets are revealed, careers unravel, and conflicting loyalties test every character.  The British ITV series is now streaming on BritBox via Amazon.

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Leverage Redmption cast

Review by C.J. Bunce

The rich and powerful, they take what they want.  We steal it back for you.  Sometimes bad guys make the best good guys.  We provide… Leverage.

And the best pilot and reboot of the year goes to… Chris Downey, John Rogers, Dean Devlin, and Marc Roskin’s triumphant return of most of the Leverage Consulting & Associates team to the screen in the IMDb TV original series Leverage: Redemption In the intervening 8.5 years a lot has changed.  Now the business has expanded into Leverage International.  Beth Riesgraf’s Parker leads the way (but she has a psychologist to help now… a child psychologist).  Aldis Hodge’s Hardison has even better tech than he had a decade ago.  Christian Kane’s hitter supreme Eliot has expanded his business, too.  But somehow Timothy Hutton’s mastermind Nathan Ford has died, and Gina Bellman’s Sophie Devereaux–who was about to tie the knot with Ford at the end of the five-season series in December 2012–hasn’t been able to move forward.  That’s where the new series, which feels exactly like a new season, picks up.

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Leverage new show

The rich and powerful, they take what they want.  We steal it back for you.  Sometimes bad guys make the best good guys.  We provide… Leverage.

Leverage original series executive producer and director Dean Devlin has credited a loyal fan base to bringing the team at Leverage Consulting & Associates back after its five-season run from 2008 to 2012.  The new series–call it a reboot, a continuation, a sequel, or just a new season–filmed as Leverage 2 and Leverage 2.0 and now titled Leverage: Redemption, will catch up with most of the original lead characters eight years after the series finale, “The Long Good-bye Job.”  We previewed the new series last year here at borg, as the series tried to get underway in the face of a pandemic.  The production made it, creating 13 episodes, and now we have the first trailer for the show.

Check it out:

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The rich and powerful, they take what they want.  We steal it back for you.  Sometimes bad guys make the best good guys.  We provide… Leverage.

Leverage original series executive producer and director Dean Devlin has credited a loyal fan base to bringing the team at Leverage Consulting & Associates back after its five-season run from 2008 to 2012.  The new series–call it a reboot, a continuation, a sequel, or just a new season–filmed as Leverage 2 and Leverage 2.0 and now titled Leverage: Redemption, will catch up with most of the original lead characters eight years after the series finale, “The Long Good-bye Job.”  We previewed the new series last year here at borg, as the series tried to get underway in the face of a pandemic.  The production made it, creating 13 episodes, and this weekend series co-star (and episode director) Beth Riesgraf confirmed on social media fans will get to see the series in 2021.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

If you’d happened to watched last year’s crime noir film Motherless Brooklyn and not known the screenwriter or director, I wouldn’t fault you if you expected to see Francis Ford Coppola’s name in the credits, or you figured Martin Scorsese finally made the perfect New York picture.  But that’s not what you’ll find, because it not only stars Edward Norton, but he wrote and directed the film–his first director effort.  And it’s an exciting, stunning, gritty film.  The fact that Motherless Brooklyn is even worthy of comparison might be praise enough for the film and its creator, but it goes a step further and surpasses a film it’s frequently been compared to–Roman Polanski’s Chinatown.  The fact that Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood and The Irishman were nominated for best film at the Oscars this year, but this wasn’t?  That’s a real head-scratcher–or that Norton’s performance as a Tourette’s syndrome-affected private detective trying to find the guys that killed his boss wasn’t even nominated for best actor?  Movie lovers and fans of crime noir who missed it should catch its home release.  It’s as good as it gets.

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Leverage cast b

The rich and powerful, they take what they want.  We steal it back for you.  Sometimes bad guys make the best good guys.  We provide… Leverage.

Some television series work because the cast has a chemistry that drives viewers back for more each week.  Even if they have a repeat framework, it doesn’t matter, and even if you swap out a character or two (or more) along the way, it still works.  If you watch police procedurals or crime dramas, it’s why you come back for more, whether it’s Law & Order, Castle, or Without a Trace, all the way back to The Equalizer or Dragnet, and even earlier… the list goes on and on.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Crime novels tend to include an element of mystery.  Usually the attraction for the reader is going along for the ride with the detective, the cop, the private eye, or the wrongly accused.  Some novels have variations on the theme, but few are purely character studies that begin with the reveal of the murderer and then take readers on the pathway of whydunit.  That’s not 100% what’s going on in Oakley Hall′s So Many Doors, but it’s close.  First published in 1950 and reprinted by Hard Case Crime for the first time in 60 years, So Many Doors centers around Vassilia Baird, a teen girl who, despite her father’s best efforts, ends up in the arms of a bad boy, resulting in a downward spiral that leads to her death.  Hall’s writing has a storytelling quality that may make it a good study for writers, but, despite his quick prose, it is bogged down with ugly characters in the obscure world of Depression era bulldozer operators.

At first Baird is the obvious character whose cause needs championed–an innocent.  But without explanation, she’s transformed overnight into a femme fatale.  Hall does not give the reader enough access to her to understand anything personal, any motivation, any reason other than she’s in the position of the novel that a reader should ordinarily be sympathetic toward, until she isn’t.  Hall never gets into her head, instead choosing to provide access to others who were part of her life, including an odd father, a would-be friend, a creepy much older neighbor, and her murderer.  Readers will not likely find those characters as particularly real either, or follow common sense (or decency toward others in many cases), or participate in the average person’s experience with the human condition.  And the single twist is predictable.  It’s unfortunate, because the set-up is brilliantly introduced upfront: A public defender is assigned to the bad boy, who refuses his services and admits to murdering Baird (known throughout the story as “V”).  But that’s followed by 300 pages of waiting for something exciting to happen and the action never again matches the first chapter.

The fact that So Many Doors saw acclaim in 1950 is unfortunately telling about the era, a story full of shockingly smarmy or cowardly men on the one hand and stock naïve and stock evil women.  It wants to be Vera Caspary’s Laura, but isn’t.  Instead the leads are caricatures of characters with little chemistry out of The Great Gatsby, embedded in a setting from The Giant and East of Eden and unpleasant interactions and relationships like those found in On the Waterfront and Dangerous Liaisons.  That kind of tale may very well still have an audience out there, but the sum of the parts may not add up for modern readers.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

It may have the strangest of any television series’ opening credits, but Hinterland is one of the best mystery/crime dramas around.  All three seasons of the British series can be found on Netflix.  Similar to another solid British crime series, Shetland, the series Hinterland is more introspective, focusing on troubled Detective Chief Inspector (DCI) Tom Mathias, a man trying to escape his past.  He does this through a form of distraction, immersing himself in each new murder or missing persons case.  His fatal flaw may very well be his inability to remove himself from each situation, and as each new case is presented, we learn more about DCI Mathias and his investigative staff.  Richard Harrington (Requiem, Bleak House), plays Mathias in a role that would have earned him major accolades on American television (it was nominated and/or won more than 70 awards, including dozens of BAFTA awards).  Harrington’s Mathias has a unique persona with reserved understated mannerisms impeccably performed in the style of a real police officer like you might find in Wales or here in the States–he created a character that is conscientious, intelligent, sympathetic, and yet also flawed.

Subtitled “y gwyll”–Welsh for The Dusk, Hinterland was the BBC’s first production broadcast in both English and Welsh.  That’s right, each scene is filmed twice, once in each language.  Filmed on location in rural Aberystwyth, Wales, the cinematography is striking, cold, and strangely beautiful.  Often rainy, windy, and desolate, the series is not as creepy as it could be.  Sure, you’ll see the crime scenes of any modern television police procedural, but the slow pacing and thoughtful artistry of every camera angle never seems used for ill effect.  The quaint, insular community provides all kinds of personalities, rarely anyone all that likeable, but viewers will get the feeling that what seems like an obscure, faraway locale is a town with all the modern problems of any metropolitan city.  And even urban Englanders will likely learn new and local rules and procedures of law along the way.

DCI Mathias works closely with Detective Inspector (DI) Mared Rhys, played by Mali Harries (Doctor Who, Being Human, Midsomer Murders), a 33-year-old mother who can never seem to connect with her daughter, but she’s masterful at her job.  Mathias and Rhys form what is probably the most realistic working pair on television.  Never getting that close to each other, and often uncomfortable sharing any of their personal lives with each other, they follow the rules of their profession to the letter, only straying where a higher morality is warranted.  Their trust with each other is implicit, and their detective work second to none.  The crimes are often complex, and DCI Mathias’s sleuthing techniques are always on-the-ground, personal, detailed, and his pursuit of truth and justice is always a passionate one.

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