Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Are There Any Cops Out There Who Aren't Mavericks?

Contains spoilers for Wallander.

Fifteen seconds to nine pm on Sunday and things are not shaping up well:

And now on BBC1, Kenneth Branagh brings a maverick detective to life...

I’m immediately reminded of a Guardian interview with Paul Abbot:

We make a police series, with a bit of a maverick copper as the lead. I say, 'Is he called Maverick?' They go, 'No, he's called John.' Why not call him Maverick and let's get it over and done with.’ I mean, you might as well. It's derelict, it's fucking derelict.

Four minutes in: what a fantastic opening. A disturbed teenage girl empties a can of petrol over her head and sets herself on fire whilst Kurt Wallander (our eponymous maverick detective) watches on, powerless to act. Like, wow. I’m hooked.

Eight minutes in: ah, it’s set in Sweden. Nice move, not going for Swedish chef accents all round. I like.

Thirty minutes in: why is it that pathologists always seem to arrive at the scene of crime well before any detectives? One explanation could be is that there’s absolutely no traffic in Sweden; lots of brand new Volvos, but no traffic to speak of.

Forty minutes in: ooh, look: it’s that kid from Skins, Nicholas what’s-his-face. I bet he did it. Guilty as sin. Case closed. Detective Chip: have the night off. You did good, son.

Seventy minutes in: if this was on ITV, we’d have an additional thirty seven bodies and another thirty minutes to look forward to. Thank the lord for small mercies.

Oh, all right then: I’ll stop being such a grouch and admit that I quite enjoyed Wallander. There’s no doubt that it looks absolutely gorgeous; the cinematography is lush, almost hyper-real, hallucinatory. There’s an overhead shot of a field of rape that looks simply stunning. Ken Branagh is fantastic, as is David Warner and Nicholas Hoult.

But try as I might, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I’d seen it all before. What exactly is different about Wallander? Is it simply the fact that it’s set in Sweden (and is a partial remake of this)? I’m struggling to think of anything else that distinguishes it from the competition, unless you discount some pretty heavyweight acting performances. It’s not exactly cosy in a Midsomer Murders style, but neither is it The Wire. So, what is it exactly? Another show about a maverick cop? I think we’ve got enough of those already, thanks. Looks nice tho'.


Lara said...

The look was amazing wasn't it? I blabbed on a load about that too as it's the first UK TV prog to be filmed on a Red Camera. More over at my place for anyone who wants to be bored x

Chip Smith said...

Didn't realise it was filmed on that new RED thingy uintil I checked your post on the subject, Lara - it really did look incredible, didn't it? Too bad about the maverick cop stuff, but apparently it's part of the job description these days, so it seems ;-)

DavidM said...

there’s absolutely no traffic in Sweden; lots of brand new Volvos, but no traffic to speak of.

^Which is pretty accurate, actually, for semi-rural parts of Skane, in Southern Sweden where it's set.

Yeah, the whodunnit aspect was weak as anything, but I loved the very svenska wistful melancholy, and the blank beauty of the vistas.

Lara said...

Yeah, pretty snazzy look, huh, Chip? x

Chip Smith said...

You're right, David, it had an incredible look - I could have gazed at that overhead shot of the rape field all day. But I was a bit let down by the narrative, to be honest. A stellar cast of course, but having Nicholas Hoult in there was a dead giveaway as far as the whodunnit was concerned. At least the pathologist wasn't eating a sandwich as he poked through the various piles of human remains ;-)

And sorry Lara, whenever I see Ken Branagh, I always think of DEAD AGAIN, which was by turns demented and hilarious (and not always deliberately so)!