Every once in a while, you discover a series that really surprises you. For me, the five part British police drama "Line of Duty" was one of those experiences. Having seen so many films and TV shows based on a similar premise (cops coloring outside of the lines and those that would pursue them), I didn't have particularly high expectations that this could provide much new to the topic. I just hoped it would be slick and entertaining. From the get-go, though, this high octane procedural came out of the gate swinging and its intensity never relented. Providing as many, if not more, plot twists and big confrontations than a regular season on traditional network TV, these five parts took me on a complete and satisfying journey. Sure, some of the plot points stretched credibility at times. The lead investigators on both sides are each allowed to behave incredibly unprofessionally without repercussions and the criminal plot threads get particularly convoluted. But I didn't care due to sheer entertainment value. In some ways, my brain is telling me that I should value this experience at 4 stars due to these slight reservations. But I'm rounding my 4 1/2 star rating up instead for the simple reason that "Line of Duty" so supremely exceeded my expectations.
At the beginning of "Line of Duty," we meet Martin Compston as DS Steve Arnott. Working with a counter-terrorism unit, a mission goes horribly awry and he is left to twist in the wind when he won't back an untruthful cover story. This principled, though incredibly unpopular, stand leads to an appointment in the British equivalent of Internal Affairs. His attention is focused on the city's most decorated officer, DCI Tony Gates (played with great swagger by Lennie James). James' successful stats are especially high and he works a team with seeming autonomy. The other lead is the ambitious DC Kate Fleming (Vicky McClure) who appears to have an agenda of her own. A series of brutal murders rock the drug world and a random hit and run with a car reported stolen figure prominently in early episodes. Although married, James is involved in an affair with a wealthy entrepreneur (the reliable Gina McKee). On closer inspection, she might be involved in some unpleasant dealings of her own. I won't reveal any major plot points. Suffice it to say, all of the disparate plot threads intertwine with efficiency and James is in the middle of it all. As James and Compston square off repeatedly, maybe the bigger crimes will devour them both.
"Line of Duty" is gritty, fast paced, and holds plenty of surprises. Each episode ends with a pretty significant cliffhanger and the finale wraps things up with precision. There is quite a bit of violence in "Line of Duty" and much of it caught me unaware. In dramas of this kind, I always feel that I know exactly where the story is headed. Here, I felt slightly more uncertain. Compston, with his puppy dog looks and big eyebrows, has a quiet intensity that works. As he is pushed to extremes, it could sometimes become a little too one note. McClure navigates a difficult role (note: I didn't say much about her, that's for you to find out) effectively and believably. And the supporting cast is nicely drawn and memorable. From the street toughs to the front line officers, the smaller roles had surprising depth and dimension which helped distinguish this piece immensely. And then there is James. A great character actor who has been in almost everything (currently a lead on AMC's new Low Winter Sun), James is absolutely magnetic. A real antihero whom you don't know whether you should root for or despise, he will definitely keep you guessing. "Line of Duty" may not necessarily be the best show I've seen this year, but it is easily one of the most entertaining. KGHarris, 8/13.
on August 7, 2014
K Harris does such a good job giving the reader a sense of the plot here while avoiding spoilers, that I don't feel obliged to repeat that good work. Summarizing while avoiding spoilers is an art, and it's one that I was a little shocked to see eluded two of the other reviewers who appear on the listing page. And that's a shame, because spoilers could easily ruin the pleasure of this taut and VERY suspenseful investigation by "internal affairs" of possible rule-breaking or worse by a highly placed officer who has just won a prestigious award. Lennie James plays the character under investigation to perfection, alternately showing us his charm, his genuine warmth, his charismatic leadership and his arrogance, and more generally making my husband and me, as we watched, alternate between believing that the internal affairs team were the ones in the wrong for focusing much too hard on petty issues that should be overlooked in an officer of such obvious talent, then suddenly fearing for the safety of those the young internal affairs officers, only to somersault around again. Fun to talk about as we forced ourselves to parcel out the episodes. To write such a finely nuanced character study in five episodes would be triumph enough, but for Jed Mercurio to combine that with such a gripping "did-he-or-didn't-he mystery is a real tour de force. Did sensitive viewers have to "avert their eyes"? Really? Okay, well, each to his own, but we didn't and we aren't especially fond of violence. Then again, one of our favorite American shows of the past decade is Hannibal, and because that is so intelligent, with nearly all the violence happening off-screen, we don't avert our eyes from it either, and for the sheer intelligence of a complex show created by a gifted show-runner, this sometimes reminded me of Hannibal. But on the other hand, for sheer addictive watch-ability it also reminded us of the (Danish versions) of The Killing and Bron/Broen (The Bridge), so I was quite surprised to see that a reviewer here compares it unfavorably to precisely those amazing shows. I was also startled that more than one reviewer complained that no character is "likable," whereas for me, by the end, I understood most of the characters on both sides so well that I liked virtually everyone, including those revealed by the end to be less than admirable. There were two exceptions, but to say more about that would definitely be a spoiler, and moreover one was someone I liked most of the way through, making for another mystery/ surprise. In short both of us thought this to be an extremely successful show in two categories that matter: terrific fun to watch combined with probing character studies reminiscent of great novels.
The first season of "Line of Duty" is a five-part series that includes police corruption, terrorism, drug dealing, torture, and more. The series begins with a botched anti-terrorism raid during which an innocent man is killed. When the order comes down for the officers to lie about what happened, one young officer, DS Arnott refuses to do so. For his stand, he is put on what in the states is Internal Affairs and is on the case of a recent officer of the year, who has covered up an apparent hit-and-run accident by his lover.
There are several different plots running through these five episodes. There's the investigation into the corrupt officer. There's an ongoing series of drug deals. There's a young boy who seems to be a neighborhood thug and is not at all intimidated by police. There's the issue of the inefficacy of policing in a poor neighborhood. By the end, almost all of these strings have been woven together into a very satisfactory story. (I recently saw "The Fall," another import from across the pond and was less than pleased that the season ended in the middle of the story. No such problems here.)
Though this is a television series, it does have its share of swearing (for those who wish to avoid such language) and somewhat graphic scenes of violence. Extras in the DVD set include interviews with writers, directors, and actors.
I couldn't stop watching, but must admit; I turned by head from several nasty scenes. The action is gritty, and writing layered and well done, and the actors believable. That's why it was a BBC hit with a dark side to final justice.
The story plays out more like a 5 hour suspense feature rather than an episodal series. Well developed plot, sub-plots, and characters that remain edge-of-the-seat scary for hours. It's hard to tread water in quicksand when it's sucking the life out of you. It's not the typical bad cop-good cop drama.
Fingers bolt-cuttered, neck slashing, drugs, language and other bad boy stuff makes this intense crime suspense and not for the kiddies.
Martin Compston (Monarch of the Glen) leads as DS Arnott, new AC-12 (anti-corruption unit) after a bungled raid. His boss is Hastings (Adrian Dunbar) and Arnott gets lost of double agent style help for his first case, DCI Gates (Lennie James) from DC Fleming (Vicky McClure). Gina McKee plays a business woman, crook, & mistress well enough for an award. The list is endless as 23 characters appear frequently. You meet them all personally. Some could give you nightmares.
SDH SUBTITLES for all:
1 Arnott in disgrace is transferred to AC-12 and given a "very special" case. DCI Gates wins the medal as hero, is exemplarly, an ace in arrests but is it all true? His private life makes him suspect, including his on-the-side lover, Jackie (Gina McKee-Forsyte Saga).
2 Gates prizes his job & kids. Will he lose both? Jackie's cop connection is discovered and a link to crime deepens arriving with deadly potential.
3 After regaining consciousness Gates mishandles evidence. His "old flame" as he claims, disappears. Arnott's queries are "over the line". Gates puts on investigative pressure only to have it backfire on himself.
4 Money laundering case goes to Fraud Squad. Arnett pulled off; Fleming pursues; Gates is hounded from duel fronts. Plenty of cops now getting blamed for something.
5 the case continues but with alarming tension. Violent action & resultant reactions. A final episode that keep viewers compelled to the very end.
A second bloody intense series is commissioned for production.
I must say at first blush this show seemed to be a bit "been there done that" but the layers quickly built as did the suspense and drama. I admit understanding all the British blather at times took a bit of concentration but assuming most of the customs and procedures portrayed are authentic, It is also fascinating to compare to our system.
I enjoy watching TV dramas while I do my daily workout for an hour and this fit the bill quite nice for a full week. Sometimes a series only needs a short run, it doesn't have to go on and on and the Brits seem to know this much better than over here where we usually run anything good until it runs out of steam and goes flat. If you like police procedurals , I would recommend.
This is wonderful stuff, but not for the faint of heart. DCI Tony Gates (Lennie James) has just received an officer-of-the-year award for his closing of cases. The AC (anti-corruption) unit is skeptical. Has Tony been laddering (i.e. multiplying the charges with each case so that the closure numbers skew skyward)?
This is the least of Tony’s problems. A happily-married man with two daughters on whom he dotes, Tony is irresistibly drawn to a wealthy woman who lusts after him (and the good he can do her within the force). She is corrupt, a property owner/manager in league with a drug ring which uses her properties to launder money. Tony is investigating a triple murder involving rival dealers and has not yet seen that all of these activities are connected and all, ultimately, involve him.
And herein lies the drama. We have a great copper who is also a human being, drawn into a circle of corruption by his human inclinations, but protective of his honor, integrity and, in particular, his family. The AC unit (cf. ‘internal affairs’ in the U.S.) is hounding him; the villains are hounding him; he is tormented by his complicity in crime but determined to do the right thing and close the case, even if this will come at a significant cost.
Thus, the story concerns honor and ultimately very few individuals in the force and in the world that they investigate possess it or value it. The corruption, finally, is omnipresent.
The writing and pacing are superb. This is riveting, personal drama along with gruesome and gritty action. The villains’ trademark, e.g., is the severing of fingers with a set of bolt cutters and a little dismemberment of full bodies causes them little loss of sleep. They are hateful to the core and the shadowy presence that directs their activities (“Tommy”) is a disembodied voice on a series of burner cellphones.
Nearly all of the principal characters are compromised in some way and their attempt to do the right thing while wallowing in a cesspit of corruption makes for heartbreaking drama.
This is all exacerbated by the nature of contemporary British policing. The bureaucrats and the time-servers are in full command and the honest, determined coppers are hamstrung by regulations and administrative risk-aversion.
I look forward to the second series (the first: 5 one-hour segments). At this point I am prepared to rank this among the very best of the ensemble-cast British crime series. Do not miss it.
on August 22, 2014
LINE OF DUTY is being hailed as arguably the best cop show of all time. While it is perhaps too soon to make that judgment (after all, longevity should be part of the consideration) this reviewer found it gripping, enthralling and highly original. The perspective the show takes is "who polices the police" and while I am not a police basher by any means, it has been proven again and again (unfortunately) that sometimes corruption happens where it simply shouldn't. Thus the need for internal investigations, sometimes even of the most respected law enforcers.
Detective Chief Inspector Tony Gates is one of the best--according to his record. But does that make him suspicious? Superintendent Ted Hastings, the head of police anti-corruption unit, thinks so. What unfolds is a fascinating roller coaster ride of did he or didn't he, how could this or that happen and what's it all about, Alfie.
The only drawback to this powerful five episode drama is the overuse of shaky camera work, especially in action scenes. We've seen this all before and it is nauseating. Fortunately the show is otherwise so good that these over the top moments are soon forgotten.
Former professional footballer (soccer) Martin Compston has made a remarkable transition from one profession to another and is excellent as DS Steve Arnott, the anti-corruption officer front and centre for most of the game. He is matched by the extraordinarily beautiful Vicky McClure as his partner on the case. (Oh, those blue eyes! Cerulean pools to die for...)
Like many of the edgier shows on British television there is a modicum of sex and bad language. This is mentioned out of respect for those who factor such things into their viewing hours.
LINE OF DUTY was a huge hit when it premiered. It is easy to see why. And guess what, Series Two is even better... And the show is still in production at the time of this writing... Isn't it great to be left wanting more?
This is precisely the kind of show that leaves its mark on you in that way.
on December 18, 2014
Terrific British police drama with spider and fly-like dilemmas. This is a five part drama that deals with police corruption. Nobody is entirely clean or completely evil in this police department. The pursuit of the central character uncovers disturbing facets of the hunters. The acting is superb and the production values are first-rate. While the plot has convolutions, it is not so complex that it is hard to follow. Subtitles help with the dialog especially when slang is used.
Line of Duty isn't just another crime investigation show where crimes are commited and solved in an episode. Crimes in the scarily dystopian neighborhood around the police station are investigated, but that is not the focus of the plot. Rather, the plot focuses on the dramas inside the police station as they relate to Detective Chief Inspector Gates. Although he is a very successful investigator, Gate's cool exterior hides cracks which are being investigated by internal affairs. The relentless hunt by DS Steve Arnott of internal affairs begins to wear down Gates and to leads him to act rashly, further expositing himself to outside forces.
The plot of Line of Duty spans all of the episodes rather than each episode standing alone. The pace of the action is methodical as the tension and stakes are raised higher with each new development. The plot is dark with murders, corruption and the decay of society. We see a police force both with brilliant, driven officers, and those who are more interested in holding others back and retributions. Those officers who want to improve their departments statistics and those who want to actually work the streets.
The acting is fantastic. It is easy to feel sorry for the DS Steve Arnott who feels the guilt of leading a botched raid and his quiet drive to take down DCI Tony Gates. It is easy to dislike the swagger of Gates even before learning more about him and the multiple layers of his persona. He is the brilliant police detective, the devoted family man and the man accused of corruption and worse.
If you are looking for drama, suspense, a plot that leaves your head spinning and fantastic acting then Line of Duty should be on your list of series to watch.
When a cop starts thinking that the 'sexy cases' are all his, you know that man is in trouble. DCI Tony Gates is that man, played by Lennie James, who has it all and wants more. 'Line of Duty' is a dark, brooding, gripping police drama, that will have you on the edge of your seat. It is violent, prepare yourself. Not much to smile about in these five episodes.
The series starts off with a terrorist case that was bungled by the police, and a cover-up is underway. Except DS Arnott, played by, Martin Compston, one of the bunglers won't play and wants to tell the truth. He is transferred to A-12, the Corruption Unit. This is not a popular unit, investigating your own. DS Arnott , as it turns out has an 'off' and 'on' personality, sometimes he is with his team, and sometimes he is not. What he does have is a brilliant investigative mind, and a good boss, DCI Hastings. Hastings is after DCI Tony Gates, he believes what is purported to be all good, is in fact a method of inventing statistics and cases to make Gates look good. His mission is to bring Gates down, and it doesn't take much. However, to get there takes five harrowing episodes, blood and gore, manipulation, police cover- ups, and a great deal of disbelief. As I said, this is really dark, you will need to take some breaks. Prepare.
Lennie James as Tony Gates is superb, we watch him manipulate us right before our eyes. Gina McGee, as Jackie, Gates lover, is the perfect mistress , Vicky McLure, plays Kate, the officer undercover who plays up to Gates, is in a position to find the truth, and she never wavers, ever! DS Arnott, has the series play around his investigation, however, his wishy-washy character takes away from his performance. This series is true grit, what we believe may really occur in the real world of policing in the UK. Series Two has been given a green light by BBC2, look forward to the next session. The new head of Gate's old unit needs looking after. I caught the clues, did you?
Recommended. prisrob 01-12-14