Saturday, July 6, 2013

Super Channel's Line Of Duty A Hit

All this week I've been watching new British miniseries and rather enjoying the experience.
First up there was Super Channel's U.K. remake of the old hit A Very British Coup titled Secret State.
My verdict: a big juicy hit.
Then Bravo unveiled its Brit acquisition with The Fall starring Gillian Anderson.
Again it made for compulsive viewing.
And now comes another Super Channel addition: the BBC2 five parter Line Of Duty and it just might be the best of the bunch. Part One is on Munday July 8 at 10 p.m.
This kind of challenging material would never make it to U.S. TV where crimes on CSI or Criminal Minds are always solved within the standard 42 minutes.
But Line Of Duty, superbly written by Jed Mercurio, looks inside a British police force and the deep levels of corruption that permeates this unit.
The details are fairly grisly even for British TV.
There is no her to root for. the deeply flawed head of the unit is played by the charismatic actor Lennie James and he is always compulsively watchable.
James plays DCI Tony Gates --he's a black cop who has made it to the top and he is deeply proud of his achievements.
But Gates knows how to get around the bureaucratic bungling and the massive amount of paper work needed to execute even the most mundane order.
Because his crime fighting stats are simply too perfect and he's being hunted relentlessly by the anti-corruption unit.
Head of this investigation is the boyish Steve Arnott --played by Martin Compston with the kind of zeal a young Gates would once have envied.
Gates has a lot to hide. He has a beautiful wife and darling daughters at home. But he also sports a deliciously devious mistress played to the hilt by Gina McKee.
Suspecting something is Tony's second, prickly DC Kate Fleming played by Vicky McClure. Whose side is she on? How about both sides?
The whole story hinges on James making us want to keep watching to see if Gate can extricate himself. Or will this lady of multiple crimes be his undertaking?
I'm not the only critic who was reminded of Richard Gere in that fine flick Internal Affairs.
There's the band of cronies Tony has assembled around him. surely they would know what is going on. But their success in the unit depends on his success.
And I like the recurring story thesis that nobody out there is completely bad or good.
Tony is being investigated because of his superior statistics. It's called "laddering" --meaning he tackles many minor crimes easily solved. It makes for great stats.
I like the way James is always the coolest guy around even when he's being followed all over the place by Arnott.
I watched the first three hours and only wish the other two had been available.
MY RATING: ****.

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