Saturday, September 1, 2012

Prime Suspect

Prime Suspect 7: The Last Act (2006)
On the cusp of retirement, Jane draws the case of a missing teenager which she refuses to let go until the killer is brought justice. Simultaneously fraught with personal strife, including her father's illness and her own alcoholism, Jane becomes drawn to a young girl central to the case, a smart and fiercely independent sort that reminds her of herself. With "The Last Act", Prime Suspect and star Helen Mirren go out on a high note, one that could have been a masterful one had it not been for some tacky plot choices, the kind of which have marred other episodes in this series. It goes without saying that Dame Mirren is excellent once more here, and its superfluous that I'm even stating so.  Director Philip Martin does an excellent job directing, which sort of continues the new style employed by Tom Hooper in the previous outing. There is also a really nice touch in the return of series veteran Tom Bell (who died before release and to whom this installment is dedicated) and his prickly, chauvinistic chief inspector. In closing, Prime Suspect was a series that both revolutionized the modern crime series while also inspiring the cliched, unworthy elements that plague it today. In also never featured anything less than perfection from its inimitable star.
*** 1/2

Prime Suspect 6: The Last Witness (2003)
Jane once again finds herself bucking her superiors, who now try to force her into retirement, as she investigates the murder of Bosnian refugee, leading her on a journey to the Balkans and a ruthless war criminal. The sixth entry is the Prime Suspect series doesn't break any new ground as far as material is concerned, and follows the same blueprints as its predecessors, but is notable for the exceptional direction of Tom Hooper, who brings his distinct visual style to the series. Of course, Helen Mirren is excellent once again, following a long gap since the previous installment.

Prime Suspect 5: Errors of Judgement (1996)
Jane has been reassigned to a high crime district, but is being underused in her commission as a community liaison officer. When an aboveboard drug execution presents itself, she sees it as an opportunity to impress her commander. Things, of course, are not as straightforward as they seem, and the lead suspect proves extra wily and it soon becomes apparent there is a mole in the police department. "Prime Suspect 5" is more of the same with Helen Mirren carrying the rest of the overwrought and routine affair. An engaging supporting performance from Steven Mackintosh as the mad dog suspect help keep things in order as well.
** 1/2

Prime Suspect 4 (1995)
Part I - The Lost Child
Part II - Inner Circles
Part III - Scent of Darkness
The fourth series of "Prime Suspect" is divided into three sub-parts, with Jane working three independent cases. The first part is entitled "The Lost Child" and deals with the search for a missing child and a rush to judgement based on a prior sexual history. "Inner Circles" details the investigation into the murder of a bereft country club manager which leads to a scandal involving a housing complex. The final segment, "Scent of Darkness" follows Jane as a copycat murderer causes her to reopen the file for the case depicted on "Prime Suspect 1". Although Helen Mirren is quite good once again here, the redundant formulas have become glaring where a suspect is identified while Jane is harrassed who goes on to identify the correct perpetrator, usually the most ludicrous person imaginable. And still, "PS4" is nonetheless entertaining with Mirren standing triumphant at the center.

Prime Suspect 3 (1993)
Jane has transferred to head a vice squadron where the murder of a young male prostitute leads to a child sex ring implicating a devious sex solicitor, a transvestite, a seemingly noble head of a youth center, and possibly a disgraced recently retired police captain. The third installment in the "Prime Suspect" series is steeped in histrionics and replete with irritating gay stereotypes as well as outdated gay themes, yet it still remains an intricate and powerful series, with Helen Mirren continuing to lead the way with her dazzling knockout performance. I also appreciated the plotting here, and how you can't exactly pin down the plot or foresee where its going. Additions to the cast are strong as well which include David Thewlis, Ciaran Hinds, and Mark Strong, as well as the return of Tom Bell who appeared in the first installment and deftly again plays that oily character. Though maybe not quite on par on the first two entries, "Prime Suspect 3" continues to set the bar for quality television criminal procedurals.
*** 1/2

Prime Suspect 2 (1992)
As racial tensions gather over accusations of police brutality, Chief Inspector Tennison has earned the respect of her peers when a decomposed corpse is found in the backyard of a black neighborhood. To make matters more complicated, a black detective whom Tennison has had a fling with is brought over to work the case for PC reasons. "Prime Suspect 2" is a fine followup to the groundbreaking British series. Helen Mirren is as towering, excellent, and believable as ever and the incendiary plot plays out extremely well (although I though they didn't play fair with the identity of the perpetrator). "Prime Suspect 2" is a gritty and engaging film continuing the trend from its predecessor.
*** 1/2

Prime Suspect (1991)
Police procedurals have always been a standard on television, but especially today crime shows, particularly grisly forensic oriented crime programs, are dominating the airwaves. With the Prime Suspect, an excellent British series revolving around a criminal investigation, we see the bar being set for modern shows of the same nature, few of which succeed in meeting it. In a dynamic performance from Helen Mirren, we follow her character Jane Tennyson, a London investigator who has been passed over for promotion two many times due to her sex. When the beloved lead detective on a brutal homicide has a heart attack and dies, it is finally her chance to head an investigation. As things begin to point in a different direction than the original detective was heading, and the case begins to widen, she faces hostility from her colleagues both out of loyalty to the deceased and shear sexism. "Prime Suspect" functions excellently on several levels: as an investigatory program, as a character study, as an examination of sexism in the workplace, and finally as study of how bureaucracy places barricades in the way of a successful police investigation. Mirren here demonstrates her unmatched abilities as an actress and again the fact that they don't make women like her anymore as she demonstrates grit, determination, and elegance. Also making early acting appearances in the movie are Tom Wilkinson as her husband and Ralph Fiennes in a small part. "Prime Suspect" is a fine example of an intelligent cop movie that many modern ones could learn from.
*** 1/2