Over the past several decades, the Brit's have been creating films and TV in particular which far surpasses American productions. The writing, production and acting in British film and TV has really put Hollywood to shame. David Suchet's Poirot, Red Dwarf, Jonathon Creek, One Foot in the Grave, Jeremy Brett's Sherlock Holmes, the original Brideshead Revisited; the list goes on for days. These top flight British productions stand the test of the decades and represent what CAN be achieved with good writing, production and acting.
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Riding the crest of the British wave of highest quality film enters the 2004 "DNA" TV series starring the distinctive Tom Conti. I remember Conti from Ridley Scott's first major film, 1977's "The Duelists". His calm, pleasant voice and manner creates memorable characters, even when playing a minor role.
The DNA series involves Conti's role as a crime scene investigator (oh boy, it is about time someone did this!) Although the general ideas and plots for the episodes are well conceived, the screen play and direction are unfortunately equally dreadful. Characters are at once annoying and inconsistent. I think to ease this review, I had best describe my opinions in terms of the Good and the Bad points of the DNA series.
Tom Conti is excellent. Remove him from the cast and the show would make excellent “Mystery Science Theater” fodder. Conti is calm and in control of his character and appears so bright that the rest of the cast appears pale and stiff in comparison. His guy deserves some quality films.
The plot concepts are pretty good. Not a simple who done-it certainly, these stories are engaging and invovle several story-lines. Production qualities, like most British TV and movie creations, are high. The sets and locations look believable.
Throughout the episodes, characters begin to exhibit inconsistent behavior and unrealistic qualities. For example, I found myself wondering why Conti’s character, Joe Donovan, would even consider staying with his unfaithful, self-centered, irritating wife, played by the usually well casted Samantha Bond (Miss Moneypenny in 1990’s Bond films).
The show’s concepts really start to break down when we see the crime scene unit performing tasks which are clearly not within their purview. Joe Donovan gets involved in questioning suspects and generally creating more harm than good. Such a situation would clearly not occur in real life and gets in the way of suspension of disbelief.
We see nepotism as high art as Joe Donovan’s apparently teen-aged son gets accepted as a member of the crime scene unit team. I suppose no college degree is required for a crime scene unit, but we see THIS team performing autopsies, injecting anti-toxins and running PC’s like the IT lab at IBM! Who needs a post-doctoral degree? Heck, why not farm crime scene work out to Miss Jane’s first grade class. I bet they would crack the case wide open!
Such “reality” problems increase as we see Joe Donovan get soundly smashed in the back of the head with a tire iron and then fall into a river, face down! Such a blow would certainly fracture the skull and minimum would have caused a major concussion. Face down in the water, this would be fatal. Low and behold, Joe Donovan miraculously survives this attack and there is not a single mention of the attack or how he survived it! He doesn’t even have a boo boo on his head or a headache. Wow….what a guy!
DNA contains some good concept ideas and quality performances by its lead actor, Tom Conti. The show is rendered laughable and irritating by poor screen writing, poor directing and unbelievable situations. Lose ends abound and unqualified crime scene investigators run amuck, trampling any suspension of disbelief. Watch it once for the plot ideas and Tom Conti’s strong efforts, then quietly walk away. This series is hampered by poor writing which limits its appeal. For this weakness, DNA can not hope to reach the lofty ranks of the great British mystery genres listed above. Too bad, as Conti is really a superb actor.
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