Appellate Judge James A. Stewart hopes your French cases of the week contain fine wine.
"They're everywhere. That's how we pay our rent."—Capt. Làa Hippolyte
Given that her Judiciary Police station is Antigone 34, it's fitting that Capt. Làa Hippolyte is a bit tragic: her last partner committed suicide. Somehow, though, Lt. Serge Ravel has the nerve to get in her squad car and join her for high-speed scenic drives through Montpellier en route to crime scenes.
Antigone 34: The Complete Series is a short-lived French crime series that has appeared stateside on MHz Networks.
Facts of the Case
The lone season of Antigone 34 finds Làa solving six cases:
• First up, a med student is killed, and her father—Dr. Victor Carlier (Bruno Todeschini, Mary Queen of Scots), a disgraced plastic surgeon—is following Làa (Anne Le Nen, All About Actresses) and Serge (Aubert Fenoy, La Vie en Rose) on their investigation. Soon, another med student is found dead.
• A pregnant wife goes looking for her game designer husband at his workplace. He left his cell phone behind, which is ominous. Also ominous is the fact that someone's using his ATM card.
• Ravel is struck by a car during a routine traffic stop. The driver is shot, but his identification turns out to be fake.
• Robbers at a tuna warehouse find someone sleeping with the fishes—and bolt. The body used to be a fisherman who had a beef with eco-activists.
• The pizza man's delivering death as an extra topping. Làa finds a girl hiding in the house where her mother was shot; there's also a neighbor who thinks the bullets were meant for her.
• Carlier is in trouble; he's been practicing illegally, and there's a dead body. The doctor claims she was doing well when last he saw her, though. Làa checks some new leads in the death of Carlier's daughter.
If you've read this far, you might be getting a idea of what Antigone 34 is all about already: it's a police procedural. It's not a bad one, but if you're tired of cops investigating a case of the week while a season-long story arc looms ominously in the background, you won't be itching to see one with subtitles.
We don't see much indication that Capt. Làa Hippolyte has much of a personal life; she's out on cases or practicing boxing in her spare time, presumably to work out her tensions. She solves cases, but doesn't seem to get on all that well at Antigone 34; the comments when Ravel is struck down are kind of nasty, in keeping with the usual character of her colleagues. Her movements as she walks into a crime scene, gun at the ready, are a little too stylized, but Anne Le Nen otherwise gives a solid performance as Làa. Her cases are like those you'd see on a stateside police procedural: investigations that start out with an odd hook.
The ongoing plot spotlights Dr. Victor Carlier's continuing investigation into his daughter's death. Carlier, who spent time in prison, lives in a caravan at the gypsy camp where he serves as an unofficial doctor, while occasionally performing plastic surgery in secret. He also sees a clue to his daughter's killer that the police weren't investigating. Bruno Todeschini's determination as Carlier is heartfelt, providing more emotion than you'll find in the station house.
Every once in a while, there's an interesting line ("Do you think the thugs see a therapist when they gun down one of us?") or plot twist. Even if it doesn't reinvent the wheel, instead just riding down some different streets, it isn't phoned in.
Antigone 34 looks sharp as Làa's car speeds through Montpellier, a city busy agleam with sleek skyscrapers, while showing a history dating back centuries. It's shown with quick cuts and a hyper pace. If you weren't reading subtitles, you could forget and think you were watching a Miami crime drama. The music—there's lots of it, ranging from pop songs (some in English) to gypsy-tinged guitar—adds a little punch to these scenes. With all the music and fast-paced visuals, it's fitting that the last plot twists are (mostly) resolved in a montage.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Do you really need Antigone 34? You might be fascinated if you stumbled on it at Hulu or Netflix, but it's not particularly unique. Subtitles aren't a problem if it's a show you really need to see, but you might tire of them in an otherwise routine show.
The location shooting in Montpellier, especially the gypsy camp, gives viewers some local color, but Làa's culinary jaunts are limited to the vending room at the police station. The only fine dining you see is pizza.
If you want one more point to ponder, think about how U.S. viewers would react to a show full of pop songs in French.
There's some nudity, including a cadaver.
For years, we've been sending stuff like CSI: Miami around the world; now, we're getting it back. I can easily see an American network transporting Antigone 34 to an American port city like Miami or New Orleans. It's interesting to see how the procedural translates in France, but it's very familiar.
Not guilty, but one suspects that the harshest punishment in France is to dine out of police station vending machines.
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Studio: MHz Networks
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