Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Hardboiled - Rebus Is a Real 20-Minute Egg

Ken Stott as D.I. John Rebus

The British TV adaptations of Ian Rankin's novels featuring Detective Inspector John Rebus are, as usual, miles above anything American TV puts out.

While the direction employs some of the dumber US tactics - the dollying and tracking camera that moves through the crowded squadroom as minor characters pop into view with just the vital bit of info to move the plot along and vanish just as suddenly, for example - the writing is tight and doesn't spend hours on getting in and out of cars, etc.

Ken Stott as the depressed, alcoholic, chain-smoking, self-hating, lecherous, impulsive and (natch) brilliant detective doesn't look like my idea of Rankin's man. For one thing, if this guy was ever in the SAS, either he went downhill very fast or they relaxed their standards.

But that's a minor quibble. Rebus bullies, blunders and barrels around Edinburgh, with sidekick DS Clark in tow, and eventually gets to the bottom of whatever it is.

The episodes are quick at about 69 minutes per, and waste absolutely no time. They don't get mired in a lot of subplots, either - a frequent failing of American cop shows.

This is Ed McBain with a Scots burr,
Law & Order without the ponderous "ripped from the headlines" shtick. Hard, fast whodunits, with a couple of laughs, a smattering of gore and a bit of violence, all nicely contained in a tidy package.

The series gets a hearty three and a half stars (of four).

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