Stream Police: The Fictional Police
Hello again you lovely lovely readers. I've been hitting the books, keeping my nose to the grind stone, and binge watching the ever loving crap out of every single Netflix content piece that looks even mildly interesting, just to keep coming up with new stuff to suggest for you all. I've suggested everything from depressing post apocalyptic action thrillers to horror film parodies that will make your gut bust with laughter. However, this week I figured I'd honor the name of this article series by suggesting a list of "cop dramas" that I've fallen in love with over my many years of cinematic media consumption. Not all of them are actually cops, and some of them aren't actually dramas, but it's the best term for the genre. Luckily for you, that means that nearly all my suggestions this week are television shows, so you'll have plenty of homicides and thievery to shove down your eye gullets.
The Finder is a comedic melting pot of odd-ball characters trying to run their small, struggling private eye business out of a tropical bar on the beach. Creator Hart Hanson has worked as a writer on Bones, Backstrom, and even an episode of Stargate SG-1, my all-time favorite TV series. He brings this experience to The Finder and makes a show full of characters I'd love to hang out with for a while.
Geoff Stults plays Walter Sherman an Iraq veteran home after getting hit with an IED. This experience left him with a brain injury that allows him to make logic jumps connecting small details that other people miss. It also makes him a semi-psychotic basket case with a sometimes overbearing personality and a reputation as a nut job. People come to his bar when they're desperate, or when they have some sort of connection to him in the past. His friend Leo Knox, played by the late, great Michael Clarke Duncan is an intimidating but loveable voice of reason that cares deeply about his friends well being. Their joined by Maddie Hasson as Willa Monday, the troubled con-girl that Walter takes on as a pseudo apprentice/employee/delinquent performing community service, and Mercedes Mason portraying Isabel Zambada, Walter's cop friend/girlfriend/ex. These four build the primary cast of the show and deliver all of it's joy, humor, and thrills. Each of them does an outstanding job on the show.
Unfortunately the show was canceled after one season, ending with an edge of your seat, nail biting cliff hanger that almost killed me when I realized it would never get a conclusion. It's honestly one of the biggest mistakes Fox has made, and that's coming from a guy that loved Firefly. They did their usual strategy of airing a show with little to no marketing, moving it's time slot around multiple times throughout the season to try and compete with an increasingly vain grouping of air time opponents, and canceling an excellent show well before its prime. FOX is a failure, but The Finder is anything but. Check it out, just maybe don't watch the last episode. Seriously, it's such a huge drag that I'll never get to see the ending.
For Fans of: Life, Monk, and Psych
I know I just used Life as a "for fans of" reference for The Finder, but if you weren't sure what I was talking about above, I have to point you in the right direction. Life follows the story of a cop wrongfully convicted of the murder of his best friend and his best friend's family. A botched investigation, an angry population, and the inability to collect DNA evidence at the time led to a swift sentencing. While in prison he was beaten, abused, his wife and friends left him, and the world forgot he even existed. When new DNA evidence exonerates him of all wrong doing, he settles his wrongful imprisonment suite against the city out of court in exchange for an undisclosed but ungodly sum of money and his reinstatement as a homicide detective. The detective, Charlie Crews, jumps right back in to investigating murders, meditating, quoting ancient zen teachings, being obnoxious to his new partner, and marveling at the advances technology has made during his twelve years inside, all the while hiding an intense rage and desire for revenge. He secretly investigates the death of his friend's family, desperate for answers about who put him in jail, with suspicion falling on everyone from the police chief, to his old partner, to his new partner's dad.
As the main character of the show, Damien Lewis provides a stellar performance. The man is one of the most under utilized performers of modern Cinema, and I have yet to see him in a film I disliked. His struggling, lonely, angry cop putting up a wall of peaceful zen emotion is one of the most compelling characters in any of the pieces I'm suggesting this week. His behavior is funny smart, thought provoking, and when he snaps, slightly terrifying. As an aside, also check out his lead performance in the film The Baker. It isn't on Netflix, but if you can find a copy it's well worth a watch.
Lewis is accompanied by Sarah Shahi as Dani Reese, Adam Arkin as Ted Earley, and Donal Logue as Captain Tidwell. Dani Reese is Charlie Crews' new partner, well versed in the modern policing techniques and technology. An unfortunate experience on an undercover op saddles her with Crews, and the duo evolve from bickering rivals to bickering friends. Ted Earley is a white collar criminal that Crews saves from a shiv while in prison. When they get out, Crews hires Ted as his financial adviser. The pair of ex-cons share living space in the giant empty mansion that Charlie uses to meditate, plan, and sleep with tons of models. Donal Logue plays the same character as he always. So far I haven't seen anything new from him, and I haven't ever been disappointed or tired of it.
Unfortunately, Life suffered a similar fate as The Finder, with only two seasons that barely get one's mouth watering for further episodes. Luckily though, Life got word of it's cancellation after it was picked up for season 2 and was able to write a conclusion that is stunning and exciting, even if it doesn't fill up every single plot hole that was built up during its first year.\
For fans of: The Finder, The Baker, Terriers, Damien Lewis (Which you all damn well should be!)
Longmire is better described by the term "cop drama" than the other two items on the list have been. It follows Walter Longmire, the Sheriff of Absaroka County, Wyoming as he deals with the stresses of work in a small town police department with big city-sized problems. Walt is an old cowboy that's starting to feel his age and is resisting the ever growing pressures of the modern world. He's an old school detective who reads Sherlock Holmes books and follows the clues where they lead him, borrowing the cell phones of his deputies because he refuses to buy his own. He deals with descent among the ranks of his own department, an aggressive and arrogant cattle baron, and the local Indian reservation as one entrepreneurial Native American works to build a casino on the tribe's land. The overarching plot of the show involves the death of Walt's wife a year prior, and the question of whether or not the seasoned sheriff took the law in to his own hands to catch the killer.
Robert Taylor's turn as the grizzled cop is something to behold, reminiscent of an aged Han Solo. Katee Sackhoff, known best as Starbuck in Battlestar Galactica, Adam Bartley, and Bailey Chase portray the three deputies that make up the entire police contingent of Absaroka County. Each one is an entirely separate character with their own quirks and behaviors that bring both tension and laughter to the show. Lou Diamond Philips plays Henry Standing Bear, Walt's Cheyenne bartender friend. Everyone involved in the show does a stand up job, and the writers seamlessly blend ancient Cheyenne mythology in to the motives, behaviors, and belief systems of many of the most entertaining and interesting characters.
Longmire stands out this week, as one of the few listed items that's still running strong. A&E canceled the show after season 3, which would have been as terribly suspensfull an ending as that of The Finder, but Netflix saw it's 3 million plus binge watchers and picked up the series for it's own production profile. Season 4 is currently being filmed, and rumor is it will hit Netflix this Fall to give me, and you if you do what I say and check it out, more episodes of cowboys vs indians vs capitalists vs psychopaths.
The great thing about the show is it's crimes, that are often horrible, but also often completely understandable. Longmire doesn't see the world in the black and white, good vs bad lens that most other police shows seem to. Instead it asks if crime is sometimes reasonable, if self-sacrifice is sometimes ignoble, and if enforcing the law is always the right choice.
For fans of: Justified, The Red Road, Hell on Wheels
Lie to Me
Lie to Me is a series that aired in 2009 and ran through till 2011. It follows Tim Roth, another outstanding performer in the modern world of film and television, as he plays the part of Cal Lightman, a body language expert that uses his skills to both teach classes to aspiring detectives and solve crimes that he's hired for as a consultant. Tim Roth's intensity and logical, straight forward approach to the world as Cal is sometimes chilling and other times endearing as he balances his career against his loving daughter and his cold ex-wife.
It's been a while since I watched this show, but I remember enjoying it greatly, and not just because I love Tim Roth. It also stars Kelli Williams, Brendan Hines, and Monica Raymund as the crew that supports Roth while his abrasive personality and arrogant demeanor rub his customers the wrong way.
Unfortunately this series doesn't have the happy ending that Longmire managed. After being picked up for season three, the show was dropped halfway through, with 13 out of the season's allotted 22 episodes. Fortunately it doesn't have a cliff hanger ending that caps the show, but it does end with a sense of emptiness that only another series of it's quality can fill.
For fans of: House, Psych, The Mentalist, Elementary
Automata is the required ugly duckling of my Stream Police article. Its main character is kind of like a cop, and the film is sort of like a drama, but he's actually an insurance investigator, and the film is really more of a sci-fi thriller. It's also a movie and not a TV show, so there's that.
Automata follows Jacq Vaucan as he investigates a report that a robot, bound by what is essentially the classic three rules of robotics, with the minor addition that they aren't allowed to self repair or self improve, was seen and shot in an alley way when a drunk cop spotted him making self repairs. Since the company that builds the robots, ROC Robotics, would lose incomprehensible amounts of money if it turned out their robots were finding a way to subvert their programing, they send one of their insurance investigators out. When Jacq discovers that somehow a group of robots have managed to self repair, self improve, and self actualize, he becomes the target of his own company's hired guns. He and the robots wander in to the parched earth that is a staple of sci-fi films. The robot's plan to cross a great canyon in to an irradiated zone, so that they may build more of themselves and live in peace, away from the humans that fear their independence.
Antonio Banderas proves once again that his talent is wasted on films like Puss in Boots and The Expendables 3. His take on the depressed, worn-out investigator who's entire world is turn upside down is both stirring and engaging. The internal struggle between his growing feelings of compassion for the robots and his desire to return home to his wife and unborn child break through his stoic demeanor to create a character that the audience can really connect with. He's supported by a recognizable cast that includes Dylan McDermott, Melanie Griffith, Robert Forster, and Javier Bardem. All of whom manage to provide notable performances in a film that is designed to feel bleak and dead.
It's also important to point out that the writer and director, Gabe Ibanez, (spelled with accents that I don't know how to type) manages to take a topic and theme that has been done many times before, and rework it in an interesting and entertaining way that separates itself from its peers. He provides an excellent look at the world of the film, from the grimy but livable city, to the grandeur and wealth of CEOs, to the squalor that is the wastelands outside the city walls. I hope to see more of his written works put up on the silver screen in the future.
For fans of: Blade Runner, Snowpiercer, Europa Report