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Case Number 20852

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Murphy's Law: Series Three

Acorn Media // 2005 // 352 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Adam Arseneau (Retired) // March 7th, 2011

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All Rise...

Judge Adam Arseneau is so deep undercover it hurts.

Editor's Note

Our reviews of Murphy's Law (published February 19th, 2003), Murphy's Law: Series Four and Five (published August 18th, 2011), Murphy's Law: Series One (published September 3rd, 2009), and Murphy's Law: Series Two (published April 21st, 2010) are also available.

The Charge

A maverick Irish cop takes on the London crime world.

Opening Statement

Are you watching Murphy's Law? You should be, especially Murphy's Law: Series Three. Hot damn!

Facts of the Case

Tortured police officer Tommy Murphy (James Nesbitt, Cold Feet) takes on his biggest challenge, going undercover as a hit man and armorer to bring down a London crime boss. As Murphy goes deeper into the underworld, his moral compass swings wildly, wrestling with demons. He's already lost too much already—first his wife and his daughter, and now himself. How far is he willing to go?

Murphy's Law: Series Three contains all six episodes of the third season of the show, spread across two DVDs:

• "The Goodbye Look"
• "Disorganized Crime"
• "Strongbox"
• "Extra Mile"
• "Boy's Night Out"
• "Hard Boiled Eggs and Nuts"

The Evidence

Like a drunken Irish freight train barreling down the tracks, Series Three distinguishes itself from preceding seasons through sheer intensity. Remember the wisecracking, quipping Murphy? He's gone. This is a new Murphy: cold, ruthless, and tempered by personal tragedy, committed to the long con, deep undercover to bring down a gangster. Unlike the previous seasons, where Murphy wrapped things up in 60-minute installments and moved to the next assignment, Series Three puts him deep undercover; each episode is a step forward in getting close enough to the mobster to pull the trigger on his arrest. It's great—every intense second of it.

Forget everything you knew about Murphy's Law. This is an unrecognizable show in every sense of the word, a dark and mutated dramatic machine full of white-knuckled intensity and ruthless obsession. Murphy is fully committed to the job in ways no other detectives can be. He is a man with nothing left to lose, and commits himself utterly to bringing down dangerous crime lord David Callard. To stress how serious and tough, Murphy sports a leather jacket and a Fu Manchu moustache. Deep undercover, Murphy infiltrates every element of Callard's empire, selling himself as a gun merchant and hitman for hire. He is met with suspicion at first, but soon earns the trust of the gang; he's a slowly ticking time bomb, bringing down the group from the inside.

James Nesbitt is magnetizing in the lead role, improving his craft in each new series. He brings such a visceral rawness to his character, a haunted authenticity, that one almost imagines the actor is the illusion. As Murphy and the police slowly build a case against Callard, Murphy is consumed by the assignment, overwhelmed by its scope. Callard's criminal empire reaches into dark corners unimagined, and Murphy's life literally hangs in the balance. The police are eager to close out the case, but Murphy is a man obsessed. The longer he stays undercover, the more dirt he can dig up on Callard. Anything less than total dismantling of the organization is akin to defeat for Murphy. As the drama unfolds, a race against the clock starts, with Callard destroying the forensic evidence against him, and an enthusiastic media threatening to blow the lid on the operation to scoop a story.

I liked Series Two when I reviewed it, but color me impressed now. Series Three improves upon the format in every measurable element, and is eminently more enjoyable to watch. The acting is superb, the writing is tense, the production values are solid, and the six episodes are paced excellently. Rarely does one see a television series transform itself so radically from season to season. With so many lies in play, so many balls juggled in the air, Series Three draws the majority of its tension through its narrative, in watching Murphy stick and weave. Actual violence, when it occurs, is explosive and unsettling.

Presented in anamorphic widescreen, Series Three looks improved on DVD from previous seasons. Colors exhibit a stylistic saturation and grain that gives the show a gritty appeal with improved sharpness over Series Two. Black levels could stand to be a bit stronger, which tend to be gobbled up by the grain. Audio comes in a simple stereo presentation and gets the job done, with balanced bass and clear dialogue. English SDH subtitles are included.

Extras are negligent. We get a biography of actor James Nesbitt and nothing else.

The Rebuttal Witnesses

My biggest complaint with Series 3 is that I had to watch Series 2 to get to this point. Why couldn't the show have started off this strong?

Closing Statement

Superbly written and gripping police drama, Murphy's Law: Series 3 is a winner from start to finish. James Nesbitt is a ferocious actor, and he literally runs wild in this season.

The Verdict

Not guilty.

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Scales of Justice

Video: 86
Audio: 86
Extras: 5
Acting: 89
Story: 89
Judgment: 89

Perp Profile

Studio: Acorn Media
Video Formats:
• 1.78:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
• English
Running Time: 352 Minutes
Release Year: 2005
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
• Crime
• Drama
• Foreign
• Mystery
• Television

Distinguishing Marks

• Bio


• IMDb
• Official Site

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