BFS Video // 2009 // 138 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Roy Hrab (Retired) // November 11th, 2010
"I had to lie."
From across the pond comes the gritty, 3-part mini-series Murderland.
In 1994, a young Carrie Walsh (played by Bel Powley) returns home to find her mother murdered. The police, led by Douglas Hain (Robbie Coltrane, Cracker), investigate the crime, but a number of secrets comes to light, eventually sending the case into limbo. However, Carrie can't let go and becomes obsessed with the crime, entering what a psychiatrist describes as "murderland." Fifteen years later, a grown-up Carrie, now going by the name Carol (played by Amanda Hale, Bright Star), determines that she can't get on with her life until the case is solved. As a result, she resolves to find the truth.
Murderland is told through multiple points of view in the style of Rashomon. The two main perspectives presented are those of Walsh and Hain. It is through these flashes between the past and present that the mystery is eventually solved. Ah, but, you ask, is it a mystery worth solving? Meh.
There's nothing much original here. Indeed, for the most part, it all seems rather humdrum. Some twists, some turns, and some red herrings. However, the suspense is never that great, making the flashbacks more repetitive than illuminating. Part of the problem is that there is no menacing presence in the film. There are plenty of sleazy characters, but no one that chews any scenery, creates much tension or even presents a threat to Carol. Further, the extreme lengths that Carol is willing to go to find the murderer are unbelievable, even if you accept the premise that she's entered a "murderland" state of mind. Also, the wrap-up feels heavily contrived.
The acting makes up for the lack of tension, partially. Powley is excellent as a traumatized young Carrie. Coltrane is solid in the role of Hain, a somewhat down on his luck version of Fitz, Coltrane's character from Cracker. Hale merely is adequate as the older Carol.
Audio and video quality are solid, but not exceptional. The picture is clear and detail, although the color scheme is quite subdued to create a gritty look. The dialogue and soundtrack are clear.
There are no extras.
There are great murder mysteries and there a bad murder mysteries. Murderland falls somewhere in between. It's probably best viewed by mystery and British drama aficionados.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: BFS Video
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 138 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Not Rated