Judge Gordon Sullivan is angsty enough to be a detective in a police procedural.
Hunting down the world's most brutal criminals.
I read a critic once who claimed that our early detectives (Sherlock Holmes, etc.) are "monsters of idiosyncrasy." His point was that in those early stories, the detection plot really drove the narrative. What we know about someone like Sherlock Holmes is the collection of "idiosyncrasies" that define him, the deerstalker, pipe, and cocaine. As the twentieth century wore on, and detective fiction became more and more developed, readers and viewers started demanding more from their characters. Now, we have a proliferation of procedural shows that try to give both compelling mysteries to solve and a collection of characters to be engaged with as well. Crossing Lines demonstrates how this tendency can go terribly wrong. A motley crew of angsty agents can't elevate the run-of-the-mill collection of detective stories in Crossing Lines: Season One (Blu-ray).
Facts of the Case
Because apparently Interpol isn't enough, the International Criminal Court at The Hague develops its own task force of investigators to solve crimes that cross international borders. This diverse group of characters includes a New York detective (William Fichtner, Prison Break) and ICC handler Michael (Donald Sutherland, The Hunger Games). Together, this group solves international crimes.
The major problem with Crossing Lines is that it tries way too hard. This starts from the show's very premise: the idea that we need an international group to track down offenders that cross borders, especially in the complicated European situation. It's obvious that such a body is necessary: in the same way that the United States has an FBI, the world needs a group that can handle cross-jurisdictional matters. That's why Interpol exists. However, Crossing Lines can't be about Interpol, so it must invent a new group operating out of the International Criminal Court. That could be a great hook for a show, assuming that the group chases down The Hague's usual offenders: war criminals. I'd love to see a show about investigating crimes against humanity. That's not Crossing Lines, sadly.
Instead, in this case we get a rather pedestrian set of police procedurals, with the usual serial killers, kidnappers, and bad guys for the team to catch. We've pretty much seen all these stories before. The only real wrinkle is that they're "international," so instead of just kidnapping a person or two in a city, the kidnapper in Crossing Lines kidnaps more than one person in more than one European city. This season even trots out an episode involving an underground fight club; if there's one story we've seen done to death it's the idea of a cop having to infiltrate a fighting ring. Ho hum.
Tired plots needn't sink a good ship, though, assuming the stories are used to illuminate interesting characters. Here the show goes overboard as well, including everything from drug addiction to a dead wife and child as "motivation" for the coterie of characters. The idea isn't terrible, but the fact that we get all of this backstory very quickly means it's not very artfully revealed to us. More importantly, it's all compressed into ten episodes, which makes it feel more desperate than natural.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
One of the few good reasons to feature an international European team of officers is to take advantage of the disparate locations that Europe offers, from the streets of Paris to the former wall in Berlin. Crossing Lines does an okay job highlighting its locations. We get a lot of pretty establishing shots of some of the more famous locales, while most of the scenes take place in generically European locations. This keeps the show visually interesting in a lot of instances in ways that more focused shows can't compete with.
Crossing Lines isn't terrible. If you just want a police procedural to watch, and you like either the actors or the idea of international flavor, then there's something to appreciate about the show. If you're a fan of this kind of show you've probably seen it before, but that can be comforting. It's also possible that audiences will not be as turned off as I am by the somewhat rushed and desperate feel of the show's first ten episodes.
I can't really knock Lionsgate's Crossing Lines: Season One (Blu-ray), either. The ten episodes are spread across three discs, giving these 1.78:1/1080p AVC-encoded transfers plenty of room. The show itself is a bit on the drab side, so don't expect stunning visuals. Despite this, detail is generally strong, with close-ups on the actors exhibiting lots of variation in skin texture and color. Saturation is dialed down a bit, so the show doesn't really jump out, but black levels are consistent and deep. Though the transfers don't stand out, there's also little to complain about, either. The DTS-HD 5.1 tracks are similarly fine. Dialogue is always clean and clear. There's a decent amount of directionality, especially during more action-oriented scenes. The show's effects are well-balanced, and there's some surround use in a few key scenes.
The set's lone extra is a 10-minute featurette that's pretty typical, including info on cast and crew. The highlight is some of the attempts to justify the show's policing based on current European standards, though most of the interviews are a bit less surprising. Given there are only ten episodes total, a bit more in the way of extras would have been nice, especially if there could have been a featurette that explained more about European police procedure and the current state of cross-jurisdictional cases or one that dealt with the history of The Hague in greater depth. That's probably too much to ask a young show, but those who get into the series will likely want to know more.
Crossing Lines is a pretty standard police procedural that tries to make up for that fact with its international premise and angsty characters. That doesn't really work, and what's left is an overwrought set of international crimes being solved by a cast of stereotypical characters. The presentation here isn't bad, so it's worth a rental for fans of procedurals or the actors, but those interested in something original will probably want to skip this one.
Give us your feedback!
What's "fair"? Whether positive or negative, our reviews should be unbiased, informative, and critique the material on its own merits.
Scales of Justice
Review content copyright © 2014 Gordon Sullivan; Site design and review layout copyright © 2014 Verdict Partners LLC. All rights reserved.