Acorn Media // 2010 // 279 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // April 13th, 2011
Catching the crooks who steal lives.
The latest procedural import from across the pond reveals its true identity: an edgy, entertaining cop thriller that is completely worth your time.
The newest branch of crime-fighters in Scotland Yard is the Identity unit, a task force that specializes in crimes involving identity theft. If some scumbag assumes the role of another person, hijacks his persona, maybe gets a murder on or two, these guys are called in to track the perp down. In charge is Martha Lawson (Keeley Hawes, MI-5), a tough, ambitious cop who's assembled a crack team of cops that do crack stuff. Foremost among them is the mysterious John Bloom (Aidan Gillen, The Wire), a former undercover agent who may or not be still connected with the Turkish mob.
Good show. Identity offers up only a six-episode series, but each show is absorbing and the finale is hugely suspenseful. Even if you're burnt-out on procedurals -- and you can certainly count me among that group -- there is much to like from this addition to the genre. It's short on the techno-babble and CGI recreations, leaning more on the street-level investigations. The staff of the Identity unit is more ground and pound, with just one specialist attached to her computer the whole time.
In fact, I'd say that Identity is more 24 than CSI, partly because of the fast-paced action a "stolen identity" plot brings with it and the de-emphasizing of clue-gathering and painstaking bodily fluid analysis, but mainly because of Aidan Gillen.
Gillen, who should be instantly recognizable to fans of The Wire as the guy who played slippery Baltimore mayor Tommy Carcetti, is cool here, an enigmatic bad-ass who is balancing two lives and is unafraid to stab a scumbag in the leg to extract valuable information. Despite his wispy build and floppy gait, Gillen is magnetic as Bloom and easily the most compelling reason to watch.
The rest of the team is mainly there to play off of Bloom. Keeley Hawes, an actress who seems to be in every other British-produced TV show, is fine here, in a role that is more of a one-dimensional bossy matriarch with some small morsels of chemistry tossed in at the last minute to further her relationship with Bloom. It isn't until the final episode that the writers reveal tantalizing vulnerabilities in her character. We'll just have to wait for forthcoming seasons to learn more. To create conflict in the team, Anthony Wareing (Shaun Parkes), a fellow investigator, spends most of his time making smart-ass remarks at Bloom. It comes across as petty at first until the pay-off hits at the end, and he and Bloom are involved in some of the most gripping sequences in the show. Rounding out the cast is the requisite "Chloe" character and another guy, a fella named Jose (Elyes Gabel), who is barely in any scenes.
Fear not if you think there are limited stories to tell about identity theft; the first episode is really the only one to get into the "someone stealing someone else's credit cards" plot. The writers manage to diversify each show nicely, leading up to the excellent finale. The first series ends on somewhat of a cliffhanger (and plays it safe, to be honest), leaving me anticipating a second installment.
Acorn's two-disc set is functional: a soft 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, 2.0 stereo technical treatment joined by a handful of text-only cast interviews and filmographies.
The DVDs are bare, but the feature content is worth your time. Recommended.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Acorn Media
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 279 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Text Interviews