The chief is back on the job. When a shocking double homicide rocks the quiet town of Paradise, Stone is forced back into action. His police department nearly emptied of staff, he has to rely on his expert intuition to sort through a maze of misleading clues as he attempts to unravel the mysterious murders. Kathy Baker, Gloria Reuben, Robert Carradine, Saul Rubinek and William Devane co-star in this thrilling installment, based upon characters created in Robert B. Parker's Jesse Stone books.
Tom Selleck's trademark rumpled charisma continues to pay huge dividends in this eighth adaptation of Robert Parker's mystery series, focusing on the beleaguered small-town police chief Jesse Stone. Picking up where the previous installment Innocents Lost
left off, the story begins with the forcibly retired Stone spinning his wheels in the Massachusetts town of Paradise, pursuing a tentative relationship with an aspiring singer (Gloria Reuben) while trying to resist his old self-destructive tendencies. When his replacement on the force meets an explosive end, however, Stone finds himself back in the game. Selleck, who wrote the script with Michael Brandman, wears this role like a just-right shoe, portraying his character's stubbornness and reluctant heroism in a fashion that does full justice to the late Parker's literary blueprint. His charm, combined with the presence of old pros such as Saul Rubinek, Kathy Baker, and Stephen McHattie, make for an enjoyable reminder of the pleasures of a long-running detective series, where the resolution of the mystery isn't half as important as the interactions between the people tasked to solve it. On the debit side, the familiarity between the characters can sometimes feel a little too comfortable, with a meandering middle act that occasionally succumbs to a case of the cutes. (Even the biggest dog lovers in the world may find their patience tried by the number of reaction shots given to Jesse's trusty pooch.) Fortunately, the whodunit aspect finishes strong, with series director Robert Harmon (who also helmed the splattery '80s horror classic The Hitcher
) wringing a surprising amount of tension out of the cat-and-mouse climax set on an abandoned ship. By the time Benefit of the Doubt
comes to a close, it's difficult not to wish for further obstacles to be placed in Stone's path, as soon as possible. There's nothing wrong with a formula, provided it's a good one. --Andrew Wright