Opening Statements

Big hair, big gunfights, big stunts, yup it’s time to review an ’80s action show. While not as overtly ’80s in tone as say, Miami Vice, Hunter will definitely scratch that nostalgia itch. While much grittier in the first and second season; Hunter definitely keeps it’s tongue firmly in cheek and gleefully sends up action movie and cop show clichés as often as it gives into them.

Hunter also differs in the dynamic between the leads, half buddy cop show, half romance. Hunter and McCall definitely have chemistry and the show spent several seasons doing everything to keep it from turning into a housekeeping sit-com.


Detective Rick Hunter (Former NFL great Fred Dryer) is a cop with a serious attitude problem. He has more shootouts and auto accidents on his record than any other officer in the LAPD. He also has problems playing well with others. When his boss demands that he work with a partner, Hunter tries to find a way to get around the order.

hunter rick hunter Robert Odierna mugshot

Enter Detective DeeDee McCall (Stepfanie Kramer) an officer with attitude problems who also prefers to work solo.

hunter mccall Robert Odierna mugshot

The two hatch a plan to log out as a unit and then go their separate ways and pursue their own leads and cases. Naturally this doesn’t always happen and the two of them clash spectacularly, especially in the first season. Hunter prefers to shoot first and ask questions later, he’s also a very good detective with a talent for solving grisly murders. McCall works undercover in a vice style role, frequently working plain clothes and running down street crimes. She has a large network of informants that help her.

hunter chase scene Robert Odierna mugshotTypical day for unit L-56

The two of them often find themselves working the same case from different angles and start to realize that their different skill sets come in handy. Part of the fun of the early seasons is watching them try to insert themselves into big cases or try to get one over on their superiors without getting in trouble.

hunter authority issues Robert Odierna mugshotRick Hunter’s opinion of authority

Their bosses naturally resent the independent pair and frequently assign them make work, running down misdemeanor property crimes or going through mugshot books. Naturally this just makes them more rebellious.

Later on in the series there is much less antagonism and the gunfights and car chases are toned down considerably to appease the critics of the time who were protesting the level of violence in the show.

While very much of its time; Hunter helped pave the way for more modern police shows. Especially in the first few seasons, the show didn’t pull punches showing the brutality of the streets, the mistreatment of the homeless and mentally ill and the corrosive effects of drugs.

It also showed the danger and emotional stress that police endure and the antagonism between them, citizens and the press. Hunter can always be relied on for a sardonic comment about civilians, politicians, the press or anyone else in his way.

The show also portrayed the character of McCall as a far more capable character than would be shown in most police shows from the era. She frequently has her own storylines and often shows up Hunter, frequently rescuing him or cracking a case before he can.

hunter mccall street fight Robert Odierna mugshotShe can take care of herself

Even with the seriousness the show displayed, it always has a good natured level of humor to counter balance the drama and remains very watchable.

Unfortunately, the later seasons showed a drop in quality with the departure of Stepfanie Kramer. None of the subsequent actresses introduced were able to replicate the on-screen charisma of Dryer and Kramer  and the show was canceled in 1991. After the shows cancellation, Kramer and Dryer starred in several TV Movies that continued the Hunter storyline.

Verdict: 3 Gavels out of 5

Early seasons are a very watchable action police drama. Watch the two leads evolve from barely tolerating each other to best friends. Later episodes lost that dynamic and suffer for it.


The Fugitive (1993)

The Fugitive (1993)

Opening Statement

Dr. Kimble is framed for the murder of his wife and evades a nationwide manhunt while searching for the real killer.


Based on the iconic television series of the same name. Harrison Ford Stars as Dr. Richard Kimble, a skilled surgeon who comes home from a party to find his wife brutally murdered. The police quickly finger him as the murderer and faster than you can say mugshot, have him arrested and sent to trial.

The fugitive dr kimble Robert Odierna Criminal Movie ReviewsIt was the one armed man.

After his conviction and sentencing, Kimble is on a prison transport bus when a fight breaks out causing a spectacular and brutal crash scene and the escape of most of the surviving prisoners. At first dazed and out of options. Kimble quickly begins to adapt to life as a fugitive and goes off in pursuit of the mysterious one armed man who killed his wife.

The fugitive bus crash Robert Odierna Criminal Movie ReviewsStill from the crash scene. One of the best practical FX shots ever.

Kimble is pursued by US Marshall Gerard, who quickly picks up his trail and spends the rest of the movie in close pursuit. He is aided by a rogues gallery of agents, each with their own skill set and quirks.

The fugitive Marshall Gerard and company Robert Odierna Criminal Movie ReviewsUS Marshall Gerard and his posse

Fortunately Kimble has a number of friends and colleagues of his own who believe his innocence and aid his search for justice. This search and US Marshall Gerard’s pursuit are nicely paralleled in the movie and we can see the similarities and differences in their respective stories. Both are intelligent, creative and determined individuals used to winning and neither one lets up through the story.

Condensing the story into a single movie neatly solves a problem that comes up with any fugitive style story. How do you keep your protagonist out of the hands of the authorities without making them the live action equivalent of the poor coyote endlessly chasing that roadrunner? The endless escapes and near misses required in a weekly TV series quickly start to look contrived and reduce the tension the audience needs to stay engaged in the show.

The shorter span of the film allows Kimble and Gerard to play cat and mouse without this problem. Gerard doesn’t care about Kimble’s circumstances or story. All that matters to him is that there is a fugitive on the run and he will capture him. This is shown in an iconic confrontation on a hydropower dam early in the film.

The fugitive dive Robert Odierna Criminal Movie ReviewsAnother great scene and stunt.

Advancing forensic science and the impact of the computer age as it existed in 1993 are also addressed. Kimble and Gerard both rely on the power of these technologies in their parallel storylines. The movie also addressed the issue of ID, showing Kimble learning how to forge the identity documents needed to operate in modern society. Something frequently glossed over in the TV show.

The film ends in a spectacular sequence of well designed fight scenes on and L-train, through a hotel and on the roof of a highrise as Kimble gets to the bottom of the conspiracy against him.

Verdict: 4.5 Gavels out of 5

Well produced film version of a TV classic. Good performances and fast pacing make this man on the run story a must see for any film fan.



Opening Statements

What would you do if you knew a killer lived next door? The police don’t trust you and you’re on a monitored probation so you can’t even leave your house. Disturbia is an intriguing modern take on an old classic.


Disturbia is part remake, part homage to the Alfred Hitchcock classic Rear Window. Unlike other less successful remakes such as the ill-fated Psycho remake starring Anne Heche; Disturbia updates and changes enough to be interesting without changing the vital structure that made the original work so well.

Kale (Shia LeBeouf) has  just done what many teenagers dream of; punch out that one teacher who gets on your nerves.

disturbia teacher punch Robert OdiernaAnd he’s down!

Now he has to live with the consequences. Specifically an arrest and mugshot for misdemeanor assault and battery. This could turn into a more serious charge if he violates the terms of his probation. 3 months house arrest with an ankle monitor that limits him to his house and part of the yard. If Kale goes beyond the boundaries, he has a few seconds to get back to home base before the electronic Judas on his ankle sends the police after him.

disturbia turn green turn green Robert OdiernaTurn green, turn green, turn green!

Even worse, Officer Gutierrez, the cop on patrol in the area, is the cousin of the teacher he punched out.

disturbia busted Robert OdiernaMr. Gutierrez’s cousin, Officer Gutierrez

Kale’s long suffering mom (Carrie-Anne Moss) confiscates Kale’s TV, cancels the cable, his iTunes account and internet in an attempt to get him to shape up. With nothing else to do, Kale does what any bored, frustrated teenager would do in his situation. Break out the old spyglasses and watch the neighbors. Two things catch his eye immediately, the cute girl who just moved in on one side of his house and the creepy guy who lives on the other side.

disturbia relaity tv Robert OdiernaIt’s like reality TV, except real!

He is joined by best friend Ronnie and before mentioned next door neighbor, Ashley after his cover is blown. The three of them are increasingly drawn into the life of the mysterious neighbor Mr. Turner. Things immediately take a turn for the suspenseful when a local party girl seen at Turner’s house goes missing and Mr. Turner begins to realize he is being watched.

disturbia mr turner Robert OdiernaThe mysterious Mr. Turner

All of this culminates in a deadly cat and mouse game that will endanger Kale’s friends, neighbors and family.

disturbia im not a stalker honest Robert OdiernaI’m not a serial killer, honest.

I came into this review primed to dislike the film. I am a committed (ha) fan of Alfred Hitchcock’s films and of the suspense genre in general. So any new film, especially an obvious remake, is going to have to meet a pretty high bar.

Much to my surprise, this film actually makes It over the bar rather nicely. While there is some teenage stupidity, it’s actually minimal and realistically played out. The characters behave exactly the way you would expect bored, alienated teenagers to.

Kale is a seething ball of anger and self-loathing with a host of emotional issues tied to a tragic accident.

disturbia kale angry Robert Odierna.jpgKale, a few underlying anger issues.

Ashley is the new girl trying to fit in.

disturbia ashley Robert OdiernaAshley, the new neighbor.

Ronnie is a classic computer geek with a few social issues of his own.

disturbia ronnie Robert OdiernaRonnie, he’s not all there sometimes.

One of the side-plots ends up in a hilarious scene with Kale blasting Minnie Riperton songs through the neighborhood, much to the annoyance of Ashley and her friends.

disturbia minnie attack Robert OdiernaHope you like Minnie! Loooving you, is easy cause….

Mr. Turner (David Morse) is a well-played enigma through most of the movie. Is he or isn’t he a killer is up in the air for a good part of the film.

The cinematography is well done, with rich colors in the outdoor scenes and effective indoor shooting giving a growing sense of claustrophobia as Kale’s sentence and the plot roll on. The film runs at a fairly brisk 1hr 45 minutes, with few wasted scenes and tight editing. The final scenes unleashing the built up suspense in a nicely paced action scene.


Verdict: 3.5 gavels out of 5

Above average suspense thriller, worth your time. Especially if your taste runs towards Hitch’s alley. Bonus, Shia LeBoeuf is actually not that annoying in this film. Tightly paced editing and strong supporting cast, with an above average performance from Mr. Transformers himself.

Mugshot: Steve McQueen

Mugshot: Steve McQueen

One of the Hollywood’s Kings of Cool. Steve McQueen is one of the most enduring symbols of modern movies.

Early life

Born in 1930 in Indiana to a single mother, Terence Steven McQueen grew up in a constantly shifting home environment. Raised by his grand-parents and uncle until the age of 8. He was taken back by his mother who had relocated to California. He soon had to deal with violent abuse by his step-father and ran away from home. Soon falling in with a juvenile gang and committing a variety of petty crimes and misdemeanors. Sent back to his grand-parents several times and finally being labeled incorrigible by the courts after encounters with the police and a violent fight with another stepfather. He was sent to a youth camp.

When he first arrived he described himself as learning to pay his dues and went from being one of the worst inmates to a model prisoner.

After his release he briefly returned to his mother and quickly moved on to a variety of transient jobs on oil rigs, a merchant ship and as a lumber jack. Joining the Marine Corps in 1947, he reverted back to his previous rebelliousness and was a frequent guest in the brig. Later he mended his ways, even becoming a member of the honor guard tasked with protecting Harry Truman’s presidential yacht. He was honorably discharged in 1950.

In the movies

In 1952 McQueen used benefits from his GI bill to begin studying acting in New York at Sanford Meisner’s Neighborhood Playhouse. At the same time his other passion for racing led him to compete in motorcycle races for extra cash.

After several minor roles in theater he made his Broadway debut in 1955 in the play A Hatful of Rain. Later that year he headed west to try his luck in the movies. First appearing in a string of Television roles and B-pictures. His first leading role was in the memorable sci-fi thriller “The Blob” in 1958.

Robert Odierna Mugshot Criminal Movie Reviews Steve McQueenSteve McQueen on the set of The Blob

This plus a starring role as bounty hunter Josh Randall in the western series Wanted Dead or Alive starting the same year, catapulted the 28 year old McQueen into stardom.

Robert Odierna Mugshot Criminal Movie Reviews Steve McQueen wanted dead or aliveOn the set of Wanted Dead Or Alive

The anti-hero role of a bounty hunter became typical for McQueen in the 1960s and he became famous for his authority bucking characters. Hi signature squint and deep, gravelly voice added to an already formidable screen presence.

His first big role in the next decade was in 1960 with The Magnificent Seven. Following were hits such as ww2 POW epic The Great Escape, revenge western Nevada Smith and crime thriller Bullitt.

Robert Odierna Mugshot Criminal Movie Reviews Steve McQueen The Great EscapeStill from The Great Escape

You can see the development of his tough guy persona in this era. Dropping the last vestiges of his earlier youthful roles. Most of his roles are of the authority challenging tough guy type seen in The Sand Pebbles and Bullitt. A noteable exception is The Thomas Crowne affair where he plays a debonair criminal more akin to James Bond than Frank Bullitt. But even in this role you can see the steel underneath the expensive suits.

Robert Odierna Mugshot Criminal Movie Reviews Steve_McQueen Yul BrynnerSteve McQueen and Yul Brynner on set in The Magnificent Seven

McQueen entered the 1970s as one of the best paid and famous of the eras super-stars. Fame and other interests such as auto racing led to a much reduced output with only 7 releases starting with racing epic Le Mans, as bank robber Doc McCoy in The Getaway with then wife Ali MacGraw and disaster epic Towering Inferno.

Always an avid racer and adventurer, McQueen frequently performed his own stunts, much to the distress of the film crew and studio heads. This can be seen in the epic Bullitt chase scene. Some crews went to the extreme of filming dangerous scenes with stuntmen before he arrived on set. He personally owned a large collection of cars and airplanes. Some of this considerable collection can be seen at:

His rebellious streak continued throughout his life and a resulted in more than a few brushes with the law including an arrest, mugshot and booking for drunk driving in Alaska. He was also known for a fairly serious drug habit around the same time.

Robert Odierna Mugshot Criminal Movie ReviewsSteve_McQueenSteve McQueen manages to make an arrest and mugshot look cool

Health issues began to plague him in the late ’70s, always a heavy smoker, he developed a persistent cough and shortness of breath that was diagnosed as cancer in 1979.

His decline can unfortunately be seen in his last film, The Hunter, released in 1980. While McQueen performs heroically in the role, as usual performing many of his own stunts. His physical decline is obvious and you can see him literally fighting for breath in most of the scenes.

Tragically this cancer resisted treatment and Steve McQueen died of pleural mesothelioma in 1980. Possibly as a result of exposure to asbestos during service in the Marine Corp or later during his racing career.

While only active in films and TV for 27 years, Steve McQueen leaves behind a formidable collection of performances that cement his reputation as the King of Cool.

Dark Passage

Dark Passage

Opening Statements

Humphrey Bogart plays a man convicted of murdering his wife. He escapes prison and attempts to clear his name.


Vincent Parry is a man with big problems. Falsely imprisoned for the murder of his wife, hounded by vindictive enemies and now on the run after a hackneyed escape from prison. He is picked up by artist Irene Jansen, who decides to risk helping him clear his name

The 3rd out of 4 Bogie and Bacall collaborations is unfortunately, the weakest. A mixed bag with highly charismatic performances, but damaged by poor writing and production decisions.

The main problem most people will have with the film is that the production crew made the decision to mostly shoot in the first person perspective for the first part of the film. This leads to all kinds of awkward angles, disembodied arms moving in and out of the frame, Bogie’s disembodied voice sounding (correctly), like it came direct from a recording booth and obvious discrepancies in height due to bulky camera equipment. Even when the perspective changes, his face is always conveniently obscured.

 Dark passage disembodied arm Robert Odierna Criminal Movie Reviews mugshot crimeGet used to this view, for the first 30 minutes this is all you’ll see of Bogie.

It just looks wrong to the eyes of most viewers, even in a generation used to Go-Pro footage. While a daring artistic move, the poor implementation badly wounds the movie. Especially since the reason most people see a movie with a major star; is obviously, to literally see the star. This really hurts suspension of disbelief and inhibits the audiences ability to relate to the protagonist. While I give them props for the attempt, it might have worked better with a star less distinctive and famous then Humphrey Bogart was at this point in his career.

 Dark passage Bogart Robert Odierna Criminal Movie Reviews mugshot crimeThis is the view until about 60 minutes in. 

Another issue is the number of unfortunate coincidences that litter this film like land mines. The nosy guy Bogie meets at the beginning also happens to be best friends with Bacall’s character and proves to be a nuisance. That she just happens to be at the right place at the right time to rescue, despite not having planned it in advance. Especially since she just happens to be the daughter of a man wrongfully executed and just happens to have heavily followed the trial.

 Dark passage  Bacall Robert Odierna Criminal Movie Reviews mugshot crimeLauren Bacall as Irene Jansen. She takes in stray escapees.

That the few people who would be likely to help an escaped convict conveniently happen to be at the right place at the right time. Another example is the cabby he runs into who just happens to know a skilled plastic surgeon willing to operate on a criminal.

 Dark passage doctor Robert Odierna Criminal Movie Reviews mugshot crimeSure, I’d trust him with a scalpel!

That one of the witnesses at his trial, who personally hates him, also happens to be in her social circle.

Dark passage doctor Agnes Moorehead Odierna Criminal Movie Reviews mugshot crimeAgnes Moorehead chewing some scenery as scary Madge.

These “coincidences” would have made for a spectacular psychological or conspiracy thriller with the right plot. Imagine the paranoia these “coincidences” could inspire if handled by a director like Alfred Hitchcock. But sadly, they litter the ground unused and only serve to muddy the plot with their intriguing, missed possibilities.

The rest of the story is typical “hero clearing his good name” fare and ends predictably for a Bogie and Bacall vehicle. Fortunately the final reels are shot conventionally and feature some decent acting. Unfortunately it is too little, too late for this ambitious film and features even more spectacular coincidences and plot holes when the plot gets backed into a corner.

Other than the unfortunate perspective issues. The film is beautifully shot, with deep, rich shadows and lighting highlights and beautiful set design and locations. The actors generally give good performances and the pacing is decent. It’s really unfortunate that all this is damaged by plot issues and unfortunate avant garde stylings in the camera work.

Dark passage Night shot Robert Odierna Criminal Movie Reviews mugshot crimeOne of the better shots. Excellent use of light and shadow in this scene.

Verdict: 2.5 out of 5 gavels

An interesting plot and Bogie and Bacall at their usual best, still can’t save the film from its varied continuity issues. The unfortunate use of awkward first person perspective for the majority of the film also damages what should have been a slam dunk. IMHO The clunky use of this perspective is a misdemeanor crime against the laws of cinematography at the very least.

The Glass Key

The Glass Key

Opening Statement

A political fixer tries to get to the bottom of a murder during a tight reelection campaign.


Written by iconic mystery novelist Dashiell Hammett, also responsible for the Thin Man series and The Maltese Falcon. The Glass Key is a story of big city politics at their most bare knuckle and bloody.

The Glass Key follows crook and mobster Paul Madvig as he attempts to break into the political bigtime. Wooing the support of the leader of a reformist movement, Ralph Henry and courting the man’s daughter Janet at the same time. His political ambitions are put in jeopardy following the vicious murder of his sister’s boyfriend. Who is also the son of the reform leader.


Mad Dog Madvig

Madvig relies on his political fixer, Ed Beaumont to clear his name and defuse the political bomb before it blows up his campaign. Ed’s role in the campaign is officially as an advisor but he is also PR man, enforcer and hatchet man for his boss. A position similar to George W Bush’s Karl Rove or Hillary Clinton’s Sydney Blumenthal. Intelligent, ruthless and dedicated to his boss. Ed’s loyalty is put to the test when he starts to fall for Janet Henry, the same girl his boss is courting.

 vlcsnap-00003Ed Beaumont, one tough character

Janet, like everyone else in this film, has her own agenda and is not above a few dirty tricks of her own. She also uses her beauty and social position as a weapon against anyone she sees as a threat to her father.

vlcsnap-00004Don’t be fooled, she’s just as deadly as anyone else in this film.

The Henry family, while ostensibly respectable and intent on reforming the corrupt city; is as ruthless as anyone else in pursuing their objectives.

vlcsnap-00005Janet’s met her match.

Elements such as local crime groups from Madvig’s past and the corrupt press all want to use the murder to take down Madvig who they see as a destabilizing element they don’t need.

vlcsnap-00007Crime boss Nick Varna

This film is a study in how sleazy money and politics can become. Misdemeanors, indiscretions and outright felonies are swept under the rug and suppressed if politically convenient. Almost nothing is as it seems in this film. Everyone has an agenda and can change sides in a second if it’s convenient for them. No one in this film comes out of it with their hands clean. A refreshingly modern view of big time politics, especially when coming from a code era film.


In the middle of all this mess, Ed must fight all sides and deal with a boss that may not be telling him everything. Throughout the film he will battle corrupt cops, politicians, hitmen and his own friends in his quest to get to the bottom of the mystery. Being the fighter that he is, he isn’t above pulling all kinds of shenanigans and ruthless tricks of his own.

 vlcsnap-00009The results of Ed vs Jeff Round 1

The film is beautifully shot and well-acted. Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake are one of the most charismatic screen couples to grace Hollywood and this film shows them in their prime. The other performers are also extremely talented.

Brian Donlevy plays it perfectly as Paul “Mad-Dog” Madvig, he may be a gangster and a scoundrel, but you can’t help liking the guy anyway.

Another standout is William Bendix as the violent hit-man, Jeff. He easily steals the show any time he appears and has the best lines in a movie filled with great ones.

vlcsnap-00006“Aww, my little rubber ball is back.” Jeff at his worst.

Most of the major cast members have at least one great scene or line of dialog and you’ll quickly find yourself caught up in film.

 vlcsnap-00008“Ya mean I don’t get to smack baby?”

The edition I reviewed is from TCM’s Dark Crimes collection and is a beautiful, clean print and clear soundtrack.

Verdict: 4.5 Gavels out of 5

This is an iconic film for any film noir fan and for those that like their political thrillers full of dark twists and turns. Pay special attention to William Bendix’s performance as Jeff. Also the chemistry between Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake.

Death In Paradise Review

Death In Paradise Review

Opening Statements:

Today we’ll be reviewing a recent show from across the pond, the BBC hit show Death In Paradise. Part cozy detective mystery ala Hercule Poirot, part fish out of water comedy. The show follows a very English detective inspector transferred to the Caribbean paradise island of Sainte Marie where he has to battle diabolical killers, eccentric locals, foreign cuisine and customs and his own homesickness.

Judicial Review:

As it’s varied influences indicate, Death In Paradise is a wonderfully quirky show. It is characterized by very sharp writing with storylines and suspects that will usually keep you guessing until the very end when the inspector, in true cozy mystery fashion, drags everybody into the nearest available large room and proceeds to break down the sequence of events and unmask the surprised killer(s).

The actors are also a treat to watch. The first season introduces us to Detective Inspector Richard Poole, a classically neurotic Englishman through and through, who shuns warm beaches, sun and the fiery local cuisine while pining away for a good pot of tea. Poole spends many episodes wandering around crime scenes roasting in a heavy, black, woolen suit, employing the famous English wit as a weapon everywhere he goes. The neuroses and odd fashion sense conceal a first rate mind that misses little and retains everything. Poole’s perception and analysis is always first rate and a source of amazement to his co-workers.

Death in paradise DI poole Criminal movie reviews mugshot mystery

DI Poole, don’t get between him and his tea.

Assisting him are DS Camille Bordey, a French-Caribbean beauty with a first rate investigative mind of her own and a fiery temper and aggressiveness that nicely offsets the low key Poole.

 Death in paradise DS Camille Bordey Criminal movie reviews mugshot mysteryCamille Bordey being intense.

Other characters include the laid back Constable Dwayne Myers, who usually looks like he would rather be partying than working. But he has a keen sense of the islands underground and an endless book of informants and contacts. Often delivering a vital clue to his boss at the right time.

Death in paradise Dwayne Criminal movie reviews mugshot mysteryDwayne trying his best to avoid work and failing.

Hardworking Constable Fidel Best, often the butt of one of his co-workers practical jokes.

Death in paradise Fidel all work Criminal movie reviews mugshot mysteryPoor, overworked Fidel.

Police Commissioner Patterson, who hides his ruthless political instincts and ambition behind a harmless, bumbling bureaucratic exterior.

Death in paradise The Commisioner Robert Odierna Criminal movie reviews mugshot mysteryThe Boss in full uniform.

The island itself is a wonderful character in itself. The show is shot on location in the Caribbean and the exterior shots are absolutely stunning. Lush jungles, beautiful beaches and a range of buildings from shanty towns to 4 star resorts provide plenty of settings for the mysteries. The island has a mix of French, English and Caribbean influences and the people are a wonderful mixture of a wide range of cultural influences.

Death in paradise beautiful island Criminal movie reviews mugshot mysteryOne of many beautiful shots of the island.

The show may seem a bit slow for people used to American style police dramas. Chases and shootouts are minimal and the forensic capabilities of the isolated police force are mostly limited to mugshot books and old style fingerprint cards. Anything beyond basic forensics is sent off to a whole different island. This means the characters rely on their keen observational skills, interrogation of witnesses and logic to solve cases. This back to the basics police work is refreshing in an era of flashy, overly FX’d TV detective shows.

Death in paradise cutting edge forensics Criminal movie reviews mugshot mysteryHigh tech forensic tools need not apply.

The stories follow roughly the same structure and usually start with the discovery of one or more bodies, followed by a labyrinth of plot twists, confused or unreliable witnesses and misdirection by the perpetrators. Fortunately the writers for the show do a good job writing the motivations and actions of the characters so the chaos seems natural. Each episode ends with the Chief Inspector addressing everybody and unveiling the villain. The final conclusion usually seems obvious in hindsight but was all but invisible as the story unfolded due to a whirlwind of misleading information.

Death in paradise there goes the bride Criminal movie reviews mugshot mysteryTypical pace of the show, 5 minutes in and the first victim hurtles out a window!

The range of motives, murder weapons and characters are as wide as you can imagine. Drug dealers, tourists, corrupt executives, native feuds and jealous lovers are just a few of the possible suspects in these cases. Often unrelated crimes are mixed in, giving the sense of an active police force trying to juggle a variety of misdemeanors and felony cases beyond the primary one.

My only issue with the show develops with the series. Due to the isolated location shoots, the cast turnover gets very bad as the show progresses. Most of the replacements are top-notch actors and actresses, but the change can be jarring. Especially when a favorite character leaves the show.

Verdict: 4 Gavels out of 5

An excellent, well written series with beautiful location shots, varied characters and sharp writing. Cast turnover in later seasons does hurt the quality somewhat. But it is still a quality production, well worth viewing.