Acorn Media // 2008 // 368 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Alice Nelson // June 24th, 2012
"Murder was the case that they gave me."
With the advent of streaming media companies like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Instant, British television has been seeping into more and more US households. Americans have been getting a taste of what our tea drinking, biscuit eating allies across the pond are tuning their tellies to each night. One such show is the British crime drama Trial and Retribution. On the air since 1997, this semi-interesting show never quite fires on all cylinders. Even with a cast of fine actors, this is a fairly predictable, often bland crime procedural.
Detectives Michael Walker (David Hayman, Sid and Nancy), Roisin Connor (Victoria Smurfit, About a Boy), and David Satchell (Dorian Lough, Notting Hill) take on four peculiar murder cases that test their skills and their character. There's the case of a girl found stuffed in a trunk; a jerk of a doctor found bludgeoned to death in his home; the death of a man who may have been murdered by a recently released ex-con; and...if that isn't enough to hook ya...a missing persons case where two women once married to the same man, vanish without a trace. ((Gasp!)) We get to view these cases from several different perspectives, as the officers' race against time to catch the killers.
Trial & Retribution: Set 5, is a two-disc set containing four episodes split into two parts. In England, the program is shown over a two night period. Part One sets up the scenario; murder, investigation, suspect and maybe a twist or two, ending with the a cliffhanger. Part Two neatly wraps things up as detectives maneuver through the evidence to catch the bad guy. It's all pretty standard with nothing truly unique, but you don't watch these kinds of shows because you expect your mind to be blown by sudden surprises. You watch to see the process used by detectives to solve the crime, and here the process is far more interesting than the actual mystery. The show uses a technique where the screen splits into two and sometimes three images. This is supposed to give the viewer different perspectives of the same crime. However, it's hard to focus on any one image long enough for it to make an impact. Whatever the show's creators want us to get from this gimmick is lost on an unnecessarily chaotic device that adds nothing to the story.
Trial & Retribution was created by Lynda La Plante, who penned the successful television series Prime Suspect, starring Helen Mirren (The Queen) as DCI Jane Tennison. La Plante's latest effort lacks a certain energy which makes it hard to stay engrossed with what's happening. Even though the crime drama is always formulaic, this show is more so. La Plante seems to pull ideas out of a hat, rather than insert them into a template.
The best episodes by far are "Conviction" and "The Box," both on Disc Two. The plot lines are more interesting and the bizarre nature of the murders lends itself much better to a cliffhanger. I don't think it's just coincidence that DCI Connor isn't seen much in these improved episodes. Her absence actually helps make the show more enjoyable. As is often the case when women are written as strong and capable, they frequently come off as men, sans the cajones; women who aren't women any longer but mirror images of their male counterparts. La Plante tries so hard to prevent Connor's gender from becoming an issue, she succeeds in doing exactly that.
Trial & Retribution: Set 5 is presented in standard definition 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, with muted colors and harsh lighting. The Dolby 2.0 Stereo mix makes it hard to decipher dialogue through the thick accents of the actors. For example, the episode titled "The Box" takes place in Mike's homeland of Scotland. Don't even try to make out what some of the characters are saying, just throw on the subtitles and call it a day. This bare-bones DVD release contains no extras.
I'm a big fan of the procedural crime drama, still enjoying CSI though many feel it has run its course. Unfortunately, Trial & Retribution is not nearly as creative, nor are the characters as engaging as the ladies and gents who inhabit that Las Vegas crime lab.
Good acting + So-so stories = a hesitant Not Guilty.
Review content copyright © 2012 Alice Nelson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Acorn Media
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 368 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Not Rated