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Category:    Home > Reviews > Mystery > Detective > Murder > Crime > Drama > Police Procedural > Sweden > Ireland > China > Martial Arts > A > Backstrom: Series 1 (2020*)/Bloodlands (2020*)/Fatal Raid (2019/Well Go Blu-ray)/The Murders: Season 1 (2019*)/Playing For Keeps: Season 2 (2019*)/Prince Of The City (1981/Orion/Warner Archive Blu-ray

Backstrom: Series 1 (2020*)/Bloodlands (2020*)/Fatal Raid (2019/Well Go Blu-ray)/The Murders: Season 1 (2019*)/Playing For Keeps: Season 2 (2019*)/Prince Of The City (1981/Orion/Warner Archive Blu-ray)/S.W.A.T.: Season Four (revival/2020 - 2021/Sony DVD)/Total Control: Season 1 (2019/*all Acorn DVDs)

Picture: C/C/B-/C+/C/B/C+/C+ Sound: C/C/B-/C/C/B-/C+/C Extras: D/D/C-/C-/D/C/C-/D Main Programs: C+/C+/C/C/C/A-/C/C+

PLEASE NOTE: The Prince Of The City Blu-ray is now only available from Warner Bros. through their Warner Archive series and can be ordered from the link below.

Next up are a bunch of police procedurals, a classic police crime epic and for good measure, a sports drama...

First up is Backstrom: Series 1 (2020) based on the books of Leif G.W. Persson, with Kjell Bergqvist as yet another exceptionally gifted and observant detective who can solve crimes and murders better than anyone around. In this case, he also shows up on TV showing his prowess, but that gets interrupted by a dead body showing up when a patch of snow and ice defrost. He traces it to (no pun intended) a 2004 cold case, but others are not so sure.

This Swedish TV production runs 6 episodes to tell the whole story and though it does have a few interesting moments, it gets dragged out just a little too much for my tastes and the lead and other actors are not bad. Just not enough to overcome the mixed writing.

There are no extras.

Bloodlands (2020) brings back James Nesbitt (The Hobbit and Waking Ned Devine actor whose TV successes include Murphy's Law and Midnight Man) as Tom Brannick, a veteran detective in Northern Ireland who lost his wife mysteriously 20 years ago. When a dead body is pulled form the water, he sees a connection with it and her, so starts to investigate with a special interest in the matter.

Nicely shot and with some good moments, its the kind of mini-series (4 episodes here) that start out good and with some promise and good moments, then get a little lost and start to drag. He is good and his supporting cast is not bad, but I was slightly disappointed by the results. Otherwise, those curious will want to have a look and there are more episodes ahead.

There are no extras.

Jacky Lee's The Fatal Raid (2019) is a Chinese-produced crime thriller that starts 20 years before with a failed mission, then new events bring that old affair up and revenge is up for grabs. With plenty of gunfire and martial arts, Patrick Tam leads the cast in a so-so 92-minutes-long romp that is much of what we have seen before.

We've just seen too much of this before and this tries to add all kinds of style to make it seem different, but to no avail. Thus, it is for hardcore fans of the genre only, though it felt like it was slacking at times.

A Theatrical Trailer (for this and some other recent Well Go release) are the only extras.

The Murders: Season 1 (2019) has Jessica Lewis from TV's Gotham as the daughter of an official who was killed, becoming a detective herself. Trying to be a 'good cop' and more, she forgets her gun in her car, which is promptly stolen, then someone lands up getting killed by it. Now, a killer is on the loose and seems to be targeting her!

Again, this started out good, had its share of promise, but then really gets bogged down by plenty of unnecessary exposition that should have been time used to develop the plot, mystery and characters, especially hers. She is likable and the cast is not bad, but this is a long one with 8 episodes!

Extras include two 3-minutes Behind The Scenes clips, one with that name, the other entitled Would You Rather.

Playing For Keeps: Season 2 (2019) is about the wives of soccer players in Australia (but is NOT connected to the hit Footballer's Wives) and actually had some events so ugly end the previous season, it is surprising it is not a police procedural by now. Instead, it is a melodrama that focuses on five women, money, power, sex and has more cliches than you could imagine.

The locales are nice, but this one runs a very long, predictable, obvious, melodramatic and eventually tired eight episodes. If you must watch it, start with the debut season and don't operate heavy machinery while its on.

There are no extras.

Healthy cynicism is a sign of a healthy society and a given society's ability to deal honestly with its troubles are a big key to its survival. Sidney Lumet's Prince Of The City (1981) is one of the greatest films of one of the greatest filmmakers of all time and part of a long series of police dramas and character examinations of the people and the system that are unequalled. In the face of often infantilizing police procedurals on the small and big screen, these films are as relevant as ever.

One of his biggest epics, the underrated Treat Williams plays New York Detective Danny Ciello, has him as part of a key investigative unit where loyalty is a must, but when they get lax about these things, he is asked to find corruption, though he has made some mistakes in this regard just the same. Then the trouble begins.

Running 167 minutes, it NEVER feels that long, never wastes a moment and has had a loyal audience over the years (when VHS tapes arrives, it would get rented like De Palma's Scarface because you got a longer movie for the same rental price) and in some ways, is the epic peak of so many Lumet films that had an uncanny knack for capturing realism like very few filmmakers in cinema history have. Because he is a journeyman filmmaker and not a distinctive autuer (think Scorsese) and none of his films have been rediscovered in a big way lately despite all the hits and classics he is responsible for, he is not as remembered as he should be.

One screening of this gem and you'll know how wrong that is!

Williams is utterly convincing in what is the title role and the supporting cast is almost unreal in its dead-on effectiveness and chemistry including Jerry Orbach, Bob Balaban, Lindsay Crouse, James Tolkan, Lee Richardson, Lance Henriksen, Cynthia Nixon, Lane Smith, Michael Beckett, Burton Collins and plenty of other character actors you may have seen somewhere before, but could not name. Even I had problems naming them all, but like all classics, once the film starts, it just keeps building up and getting better, better, better, better, richer and is one of Lumet's tour de force films. That says something.

It is one of three big screen adaptations of books based on real true life stories by Robert Daley (followed by Michael Cimino's Year Of The Dragon (1985, reviewed elsewhere on this site and also issued on Blu-ray by Warner Archive) with a screenplay co-written by Oliver Stone and Lumet's own Night Falls On Manhattan (1996)) and begins a sort of unacknowledged trilogy, but these are films with a mature, adult approach that disappeared in the 1980s in exchange for infantilized mall movies and other junk. I just wish the extra footage that appeared on a TV broadcast of this film was in the extras section. Otherwise, this is one of the best back catalog releases of the year and is strongly recommended!!!

Extras include an Original Theatrical Trailer Bloopers and vintage Making Of featurette Prince Of The City: The Real Story.

S.W.A.T.: Season Four (2020 - 2021) continues the revival of the 1970s hit series that has somehow lasted longer and picks up with the events of the previous season as covered in our review at this link:


They have included the pandemic, but it is a cynical and even robotic rehash of the old show that only the presence of Shemar Moore can save it from, but even he can only do so much. I did not buy the last season or the series so far in general and this is more of the same, but this one runs 18 (!!!) very long episodes, so it is for fans and for fans only.

A Behind The Scenes featurette and Bloopers Reel are the only extras.

Finally we have Total Control: Season 1 (2019) has some police procedural leanings as a drama set in Australia about law, violence, racism, prejudice and the like as Deborah Mailman and Rachel Griffiths (of Muriel's Wedding, Cosi and TV's hit Six Feet Under) in this sometimes political melodrama with Griffiths as the Prime Minister, who gets Alex Irving (Mailman) into a position of some power after an ugly domestic violence incident that makes headlines, which Irving expects to be let down by. When she is, all hell breaks loose and deals with the hidden pain of a nation.

Running six episodes, I like the cast and wanted to like this one, but it gets sidetracked midway and never truly recovers, which is a shame because they have a solid cast and I bet they know it. I do like the set-up and have been fortunate to be exposed to subject material more than most U.S. viewers having watched more Australian productions than most of the population of 'the states' and the like. Maybe the next season will pick up the pace.

There are no extras.

Now for playback performance, despite easily being the oldest production on the list, the 1080p 1.85 X 1 digital High Definition image on City looks amazing, solid and is stunningly, the first feature film of Director of Photography Andrzej Bartkowiak, A.S.C., becoming Lumet's permanent DP for years after. The use of the frame, color, light, darkness and camera angles is superior and an exercise in pure cinema long overdue on Blu-ray. Bartkowiak (who also shot the original Keanu Reeves Speed, Michael Douglas in Falling Down, Prizzi's Honor and two of Barbra Streisand's films) had instant synergy with Lumet and wow, does it show. Warner has given this a great transfer.

The film was a theatrical monophonic release and the DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 2.0 Mono lossless mix keeps that configuration, but the sound is still well recorded and edited considering so many films were going stereo at the time.

The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Fatal Raid is a little sloppy, has color issues despite obviously intended styling (including some attempts at black and white) and more motion blur than any HD shoot should have at this time. The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix also has its issues with uneven editing and issues with recording on the Cantonese tracks (also here in 2.0 DTS-MA Stereo) while the English dubs are no good at all and much more trying.

All six DVDs are here in anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 framing, save 2.00 X 1 on Backstrom, Bloodlands and Total Control. All are also HD shoots, but Backstrom, Bloodlands and Playing For Keeps are softer and more motion blur-prone than they ought to be. As for sound, all have lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 mixes, save lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo in Keeps, which means they should all sound good enough for the old, compressed codec. However, all five of the Acorn DVDs underwhelm in their sound and sound as if they were transferred at a lower volume than they should have been.

I checked them all on several set ups and got the same results, so be careful of high volume playback and volume switching in those cases.

To order the Prince Of The City Warner Archive Blu-ray, go to this link for it and many more great web-exclusive releases at:


- Nicholas Sheffo


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