18 June 2011

Brevity is the soul of wit. Some people would do well to remember that. (Review: 'The Shadow Line')

A seven-part TV drama featuring The Operative, The Ninth Doctor and Robert Pugh (who doesn't have a single role that he's remembered for, although he did do a great Hermann Goering one time) should be good.

It isn't. It's a boring work that should have lost at least an episode on the edit and needed a better director.
The Shadow Line is basically a murder mystery/conspiracy thriller in the same vein as Edge of Darkness etc. A drug dealer by the name of Harvey Wratten is murdered (his body is found by two coppers who deliberately ignore the "do not touch the corpse rule"). The police investigate and so do the criminals.

One of the officers is DI Jonah Gabriel (Chiwetel Ejiofor), who is returning to work after the death of his colleague via a bullet that is now lodged in his skull. He doesn't remember the events that led up to his colleague's death. He's going to find out.

In the meantime, Joseph Bede (Christopher Eccleston), a man with a wife dying of cancer, is trying to arrange a major drug deal.
What sounds like a brilliant premise is fatally flawed in the execution. I'll list the reason

1. The primary problem is the funereal pacing, more suited to a book. Nearly every scene is longer than it should have been and the ending went along far too long.

2. The plot was confusing and hard to keep track of. You didn't remember who was who in the drugs trade, that's for certain.

3. I was also annoyed at unconvincing police cars and oddly enough shoulder numbers (I live in London - I know what Met Police vehicles and shoulder numbers look like).

4. Then there's the dialogue: characters go on bizarre tangents in the middle of conversations and some of the speech ("It's time to call the cops!") is just bizarre.

5. The acting also leaves much to be desired. Especially Kierston Wearing's DS Lia Honey, who was rapidly nicknamed "DS Collagen" on Gallifrey Base and who ended up having a rubber pistol held against her neck (you could see it bend).

6. Finally, the resolution to the plot was a bit rubbish. Counterpoint could have been so much better (perhaps police officers were buying up drugs to prevent them from ending up on the street, which of course means the dealers are getting money). The [spoiler] was overdone and the ending dragged far too much.
There were two things that were good about this. Firstly, the haunting theme tune, "Pause" by Emily Barker and the Red Clay Halo, which I bought off Amazon during this run (I don't do that for many themes).

Secondly, Stephen Rea's Gatehouse. This calm, polite killer stole most of the scenes that he was in. Never has the word "Beep" been so ominous. Sadly, even he got a bit poor near the end.


I think that the primary cause of failure for this was Hugo Blick (a man whose experience has been comedy) deciding to write, produce and direct. Those are three different roles and it takes a rare genius to do the trifecta. Blick, alas, was not sort of person.

3/10. This could have been so much better.

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