Judge Victor Valdivia makes a terrible hostage negotiator, particularly when he keeps yelling, "Oh get over yourself!"
Our reviews of Flashpoint: The First Season (published November 2nd, 2009), Flashpoint: The Fifth Season (published May 22nd, 2013), Flashpoint: The Fourth Season (published June 6th, 2012), and Flashpoint: The Third Season (published June 16th, 2011) are also available.
A force to be reckoned with…
…but only if you're easily intimidated by inane and forgettable cop dramas.
Facts of the Case
Sgt. Gregory Parker (Enrico Colantoni, Just Shoot Me) is the lead negotiator of the Strategic Response Unit, a special team of police officers dedicated to handling delicate and difficult situations, mainly hostage takings. Alongside team leader Ed Lane (Hugh Dillon, Durham County) and team members Sam (David Paetkau, Whistler), Jules (Amy Jo Johnson, Felicity), Mike (Sergio Di Zio, Stoked), Kevin (Michael Cram, Repo Men), and Mark (Lewis Young, Instant Star), the team operates in a large Canadian city and battles crime while dealing with personal issues. Here are the nine episodes of Flashpoint: The Complete Second Season compiled on two discs:
• "The Fortress"
• "Clean Hands"
• "Aisle 13"
• "Remote Control"
• "Perfect Storm"
• "Last Dance"
• "Exit Wounds"
When critics refer to Flashpoint as an updated version of S.W.A.T., they usually mean that it takes the idea of S.W.A.T.—a team of cops trained to respond to extreme situations—and modernizes it with flashy visuals and fancy technology. What they don't usually add is that it also updates S.W.A.T. in completely the wrong way: by adding interminable touchy feely scenes and third-rate attempts at Law & Order-esque topicality. The whole point of S.W.A.T. was nothing more than two-fisted action and violence against unabashedly bad guys. Flashpoint thinks it's being smarter by depicting everybody, even the perpetrators, as flawed human beings, but the characters are all still as one-dimensional as any old TV villains. It's just that now they talk and cry more and shoot less. This is progress?
It's hard to overstate how bad the writing on Flashpoint is. This is the kind of show that thinks it's edgy and daring to depict an investment bank CEO as a greedy jerk who learns that, just maybe, money isn't everything after he's taken hostage. Seriously? That storyline was old when Dickens essentially used it in A Christmas Carol. All the fancy editing and clumsy references to the 2008 economic crash can't make it any fresher. The troubled teens in "The Perfect Family" are as troubled as any teen in a 1950s anti-pregnancy film: foster kids, broken homes, long hair, the works. The teens in "Aisle 13," on the other hand, are far more up-to-date: one's black, one's white, they both wear baggy clothing, and they both have hip-hop nicknames. Now that's characterization! By comparison, the Russian gangsters with Boris Badenov accents in "The Fortress" are models of subtlety. These characters end up as stereotypes because for all their yammering and weeping, their motivations and stories are simplistic. The bad guys do stuff because, well, they're bad, and the not-so-bad guys do stuff because they were somehow or other forced to do so.
It doesn't help any that all of the episodes follow an identical formula. Something triggers the guest stars to take hostages, then the team is called in, negotiations occur with Parker while Ed and his team members argue over who has the shooting solution (direct shot at the perpetrator's head), then the whole thing is negotiated to an end, after much weeping and yakking. That's all of them, one right after the other. Some three episodes into the set, you'll be correctly guessing outcomes and shouting out lines of dialogue well before the characters onscreen do. Again, that wouldn't be so bad if the show had something exciting to make up for the predictability, but there isn't much in the way of action and the attempts at ratcheting up the tension are unconvincing because everybody talks so much. At the end of each episode, Parker and Ed exchange some reassuring words about the decisions they made, and then a soulful rock ballad plays while the team members pose silently. You'd certainly never see that on S.W.A.T., but that doesn't mean it's entertaining.
As for the team members themselves, they're an interchangeable lot. There's some minor angst involving Jo and Sam, who used to be a couple before she was shot last season, but it peters out with a wan breakup scene. There's a temporary replacement for Jo, Donna (Jessica Steen, Earth 2), who has some angst with Sam as well. About halfway through the season, she decides against staying with the team because, apparently, she doesn't feel like it. That's pretty much it. If you have a hard time telling the team members apart at the beginning of the season, you won't be any better off at the end of it. It's another indication of just how forgettable Flashpoint is.
Paramount has done a serviceable job with the DVD. The anamorphic transfer is impressive. Colors are vivid and the image is sharp, with little blurring or bleeding. The 5.1 surround mix is also well-done, with ambient sound effects everywhere and a good balance between effects and dialogue. The only extras are brief featurettes: "Stunts" (3:46), "Weapons" (3:24), and "Hugh Dillon Works Well with Others" (4:26). The first two are superficial looks at various technical aspects of the show, while the third looks at cast member Dillon's career as both a singer and an actor. Unless you're a huge fan, they're all pretty dispensable.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
The only episode that attempts to cut a little deeper is "Last Dance." The story is actually original, and the resolution, while still as riddled with clichés as the other episodes, isn't quite as cut-and-dried. At least the hostage takers in this episode have an interesting reason for doing what they do, which is more than can be said for the cardboard cutouts in every other episode. If every other episode this season was like this one, this set would be more compelling.
Lazy and formulaic writing make Flashpoint little more than just another generic cop drama. An updated version of S.W.A.T. could have been a good show, but with run-of-the-mill ideas, repetitive episodes, and tedious pacing, Flashpoint simply isn't it. Unless you're an obsessive cop show fan, there's no reason to bother with this set.
Guilty of undistinguished mediocrity.
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