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Category:    Home > Reviews > Spy > Action > Espionage > British TV > Urban > Thriller > Drama > Police > Techno Thriller > Telefilm > MI-5: Volume 9 (2010/BBC DVD) + Report To The Commissioner (1975/MGM Limited Edition Collection DVD) + Wired (2008/Acorn DVD)

MI-5: Volume 9 (2010/BBC DVD) + Report To The Commissioner (1975/MGM Limited Edition Collection DVD) + Wired (2008/Acorn DVD)


Picture: C/C+/C+     Sound: B-/C+/C+     Extras: D/C-/D     Episodes/Film/Telefilm: C-/B-/C+



PLEASE NOTE: Report To The Commissioner is a web-only DVD release that can be ordered from Amazon.com and accessed from the sidebar of this site while supplies last.



The image of police and agents of the state (or federate if you like) in fiction can wildly vary, but usually they are the “good guys” and it is hard to have a TV series where they are all bad or their police station would collapse.  Still, there is still the matter of character development (think Hill Street Blues, The Sweeny, even Barney Miller) that separates the good shows form the bad.  Therefore, you are more likely to deal with “bad cops” in feature films when they can and now we’ll look at three releases that run the gamut of such programming.



Though it is a spy show, MI-5: Volume 9 is much more like a police procedural and more boring and formulaic than I could have ever imagined from when it started; it is a spy show for people who are not fans of them, but here it is with the MI-5/CIA relationship having some trouble (temporary, of course) and that is among the endless list of predictability here.  For those unfamiliar with the show, here is a link to our past coverage:





It is supposedly intriguing, but except for invested fans, it is like watching McDonald’s battle Burger King, but with less excitement.  That is how safe and corporate-friendly the show has become and I might add, the total opposite of what the BBC used to be about when it came to programming.  Besides being so Right of center ideologically (everyone is wonderful beyond question, which is not real life), it’s 8 hour-long show how empty and tired this approach is, which we can trace back to the 1980s (itself a throwback to the 1950s and pre-WWII Britain) with technical bells and whistles.  So that is my example of the one far side of showing police authority we’ll continue in a minute.


Know that the anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image here is as soft as it has been for a while, making it one of the most poorly shot-in-HD shows around, though I have to admit the Dolby Digital 5.1 mix is better than past releases and even possessed a soundfield.  There are predictably no extras, as what is there to say after all this?


On the other end is Milton Katselas’ hard-hitting Report To The Commissioner (1975) co-written by no less than Abby Mann (the Kojak creator who also wrote the controversial Sinatra vehicle The Detective (1968)) and Ernest Tidyman (the Shaft creator who also wrote The French Connection (1971) and the Eastwood hit High Plains Drifter (1973)) based on the book by James Mills (who also wrote The Panic In Needle Park) with a very young Michael Moriarty as an equally young rookie cop joining the force in New York City to get things done, only to slowly discover the department is a rotten as the city, getting caught in the crossfire of corruption, bad, self-serving decisions and worse.


This is yet another gem too long out of circulation and though it may have dated slightly, it is as hard hitting as its more well-known counterparts of the time (like the work of its writers) and far exceeds the power of so many of its would-be imitators today.  Note most Scorsese/Tarantino imitators always throw in the Gangster genre when dealing with corrupt cops since those imitators don’t have the guts to do a film like this.  The situation is real, every aspect of the story questions the system with healthy cynicism that has been systematically eliminated since the 1980s from most cinematic discourse and the performances (which includes Yaphet Kotto, Susan Blakely, Hector Elizondo, Tony King, Dana Elcar, William Devane, Bob Balaban, Vic Tayback, Sonny Grosso and the big screen debut of Richard Gere; a very strong cast) mesh together extremely well.


Though not a total dismissal of police power, it is part of a cycle of films and TV shows that rightly examined police power and how it can easily go wrong if unchecked, plus the permanent pitfalls of dealing with complex urban situations.  This is a smart, realistic film made by adults for adults that would never get a PG today (a PG-13 or maybe R is what it might get today) but solid filmmaking all around that endures and it highly recommended, especially since we rarely see such work today.  The anamorphically enhanced 1.85 X 1 image comes from a decent print despite the disclaimer that this was the best print they had (Director of Photography Mario Tosi (Carrie, The Stunt Man) delivers remarkable work here) and the Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono is also decent for its age, down to the sometimes ironic voiceover narrator and Elmer Bernstein score.  The original theatrical trailer is the only extra.


That brings us to a supposed financial thriller in Kenny Glenaan’s Wired (2008) was made around the time the big worldwide financial collapse occurred, which is one of the reasons why this is just coming out on DVD now because it could never match real life, but this tale of a woman (Jodie Whittaker) getting a big promotion only to get involved with underworld hoodlums is a mixed bag that never totally rings true and never picks up throughout the long 134 minutes, even when Toby Stephens shows up as a cop who might be on the take.  It is so flat and dull, I could have cared less, though I liked some of the actors and the makers thought fancy editing and digital screens were somehow exciting or just talking about money helped.


I would argue that it comes from the same safe place as MI-5 and that is why it is a bore, especially since this approach is played out.  See it for yourself, but don’t multitask while watching.


The anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image shows its age and looks like an older HD shoot, while the Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo soundtrack is good for what it is, but nothing impressive or surprising.  There are no extras.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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