August 16, 2011
In Prime Suspect 2: Operation Nadine, Helen Mirren, famous for her voluptuous pin-up bikini photo at age 63, plays a Detective Chief Inspector, an austere and sturdy plain Jane Tennison. In 1992, the forty-something policewoman - with her unsociable aura, anti-sexual suits and too-sensible gumshoes - sleuths for a macho Scotland Yard police division.
So this UK import stars the under-attractive Mirren with the overly-ambrosial Colin Salmon, 30 year old black Sergeant Robert Oswalde. The two share the challenges of a complicated unwelcoming workplace encumbered with a complex quasi-welcomed chemistry.
English dramas are less about outer assets and more about inner charisma and character. And as the series progresses, beauty acquires its own renovated definition.
But so does ugliness. The chaotic consequences of inter and intra racial wars. The messy corollaries when good guys don't win. And where wrong is unlawfully mistaken for right. The honest impact is a drama better for it.
Which nourishes another asset: that the heroes and heroines are not just flawed, but flinchingly imperfect. "Don't go there," you scream at the screen when you see these otherwise cool collected mature adults tripping over their Achilles heel. But they don't hear your yelling and they plummet, belly flopping into their own doo-doing. But with that supple English resilience, they're up, cleaned off and on to the next slippery provocation.
And that's their charm.
While 20 years old, Prime Suspect 2 has aged well. Except for the absence of iPhones and DNA testing, it could happen today. Among the prime and primed suspects, there are competing compelling candidates, each one with a persistent tracker who, for personal reasons or political ambitions, is vested in the victory of their accused killer's conviction - guilty or not.
Fun and games, English style.
If you must have the plot, here goes. In an Afro-Colonial London neighborhood, a young woman's decomposed remains are dug up in a garden flat once owned by a hip-but-bitter black family and rented to an aging creepy white dude. Who was she? Forensics gives clues to how as well as when she died, her ethnic heritage, and her age. But the why was for the police to figure out, and the who-did-it for them to find.
Nothing new or novel in the storyline, but the writing, acting and casting eclipse the competition. So what do we Americans do with a popular Emmy award winning import? We acquire, adapt and castrate it.
It will be highly enlightening to see NBC's Americanization of Prime Suspect. On September 22, 2011, the vanilla beauty of Maria Bello has been cast to replace the piquant mettle of Mirren. Let's cross our fingers that the writers don't desalinate her temperament, too.
And let's hope they don't downgrade the cast of 3D characters to 2D caricatures. It's been done before. But with Peter Berg directing, he who humanized Texas high school football can surely resuscitate life in another locker-room - that of the New York City Police Department. (Check out Berg's Blu-ray, Friday Night Lights.)
There are none. But you might want to utilize the sub-title feature for best audible audio results. What a blessing to have the English-to-English transcription.
You must acquire "The Final Act" DVD to fill the Extras' omission. The behind-the-scenes documentary features Jackie Malton, one of the early-and-rare lady detectives, who was a consultant for the "Suspect" writers.
For now, 204 minutes of great television will have to be enough.
And if it isn't, Acorn Media has released the complete set of Prime Suspect, Series 1 -7, 25 hours on nine DVDs.
Studio: ITV Studios / Acorn Media
Director: John Strickland
Cast: Helen Mirren, Colin Salmon, John Benfield, Claire Benedict, George Harris, Junior Laniyan, Tom Watson,Matt Bardock, Jenny Jules, Jack Ellis, Craig Fairbrass, Ian Fitzgibbon, Stafford Gordon, Richard Hawley, Andrew Tiernan, Philip Wright, Jack Ellis (III), Ian Fitzgerald
Length: 204 minutes
Rated: Not Rated
Aspect ratio: 4:3
Dolby Digital Mono