Intrigue in Seattle, murder Down Under and a backwards-looking family movie -this week’s best DVDs reviewed.
Based on the Danish crime drama of the same name (well, Forbrydelsen, technically), the US remake of The Killing first hit our screens in 2011, but enjoyed mixed fortunes, getting cancelled not once, but twice -only to be bailed out by Netflix on both occasions. With a fourth and final series now poised to air on the online streaming service, The Killing -The Complete First, Second and Third Seasons (MediumRare) is available to buy, with seasons two and three available on DVD for the first time.
Written and produced by Veena Sud (Cold Case), The Killing follows tenacious Seattle homicide detective Sarah Linden (Mireille Enos, Big Love, World War Z) and her partner Stephen Holder (Joel Kinnaman, Easy Money, Robocop) as they investigate the murder of 17-year-old Rosie Larsen. Elsewhere, charismatic politician Darren Richmond (Billy Campbell, Helix) prepares for his Seattle mayoral campaign and Rosie’s family try to adjust to life without her. As evidence slowly emerges, their stories start to come together, and Linden’s plans to retire to California with her fiancÃ© drift further away.
After an engrossing start, The Killing is prone to traipsing down narrative dead-ends, and frustrates as much as it enthrals. Most notably, the pacing is problematic, and the first series wavers badly as it approaches the finish line. Meanwhile, the second series seems to shoot itself in the foot straight away, by picking up the unravelled threads from the first outing, rather than pressing ahead with a new investigation from the get-go. Things pick up with the third outing however, which takes place one year on from the Rosie Larsen case, and sees Linden lured back to work after an investigation into a runaway girl leads Holder to discover a string of murders which connect to a previous case that Linden worked on. The change of personnel gives the show a shot in the arm, and season three boasts as standout guest performance from Peter Sarsgaard as Ray Seward, a Death Row inmate who may not be responsible for the murder of his wife.
Prior to its arrival, much was made regarding the similarity between The Killing and Twin Peaks (Who killed Laura Palmer?/Who killed Rosie Larsen?), but the two shows are very different beasts. Show-runner Veena Sud is adept at offering up enough clues to keep you hooked, but the sluggish sense of progress can sometimes feel quite draining. Nevertheless, with excellent performances from its impressive ensemble cast -Enos and Kinnaman in particular -The Killing is absorbing and immersive for the most part. It may have fallen out of favour with mainstream audiences, but The Killing is a solid, atmospheric police procedural that (just about) repays your faith in it.
Written and directed by award-winning half-Aboriginal filmmaker Ivan Sen (Toomelah), Mystery Road (Axiom Films) tells the story of Aboriginal detective Jay Swan (Aaron Pedersen, Jack Irish), who returns to his home town in rural Queensland after a spell in the big city, only to be handed a case involving the brutal murder of an indigenous teenage girl. Alienated by the white-dominated police force, and ostracised by the local Aborigine community, Jay must fend for himself as tensions threaten to boil over on all sides.
Mystery Road is a sun-bleached Australian Noir, albeit one that doffs its Stetson to the western, with Jay Swan filling the role of lone sheriff, hell-bent on cleaning up his corrupt hometown. Racial tension underpins the narrative, and the impressive Pedersen offers a haunted, committed, lead performance.
There is a palpable sense of unease throughout, and the stellar Australian ensemble cast, which includes Hugo Weaving (The Matrix) and Ryan Kwanten (True Blood) offer solid support in ambiguous roles. Not perfect, admittedly -the film drops in enough characters and sub-plots for a mini-series, leading to some head-scratching moments -but Mystery Road is a bleak, evocative thriller that messes with genre tropes to impressive effect. Well worth investigating.
After a construction project begins digging up their neighbourhood, young best friends Tuck, Munch and Alex begin to receive strange, encoded messages on their cell phones. So begins Earth to Echo (eOne). Convinced that something sinister is afoot, the trio embark on a secret adventure to crack the code and follow it back to its source. Inevitably, by taking matters into their own hands, the boys end up in way over their heads, and their improbable trail leads them to discover a mysterious being from another world. A mysterious being that desperately needs their help
Earth to Echo was originally developed by Disney before being farmed out to a different distributor, and the ‘Mouse House’ did well to rid itself of such a cynical and strangely unenjoyable film. Presumably the original pitch was ‘ET meets The Goonies -with iPhones’, which is a fair reflection of the plot. Suffice to say, if you have any sense, you should re-watch The Goonies and ET instead, and give this a miss!
While I probably sound curmudgeonly in criticising a film clearly aimed at younger viewers, Earth to Echo is weirdly difficult to enjoy. Whereas JJ Abrams captured the spirit of those earlier movies with 2011’s compelling Super 8, first time feature director Dave Green falls sadly flat here. They don’t make ’em like they used to