Judge Joel Pearce recommends that you leave this thriller about swingers well enough alone.
Wife swapping, secrets, murder…Welcome to the neighborhood!
After three seasons of the downright stunning Wire in the Blood, I was eager to check out another series featuring Robson Green. Next time, I'll know better.
With their marriage on the rocks, Jack (Robson Green, Wire in the Blood) and Kay (Beth Goddard, The Daylight Robbery) move into a new neighborhood. They then get involved in a number of wife-swapping parties with their new neighbors, each having several affairs and discovering (to their apparent surprise) that they are drifting further and further apart. Matters worsen when Jack begins to suspect local photographer and all around scumbag Doug (Daniel Webb, Alien 3) of murder most foul. Soon, much more than Jack and Kay's marriage is in danger.
From the very beginning, something bothered me about Take Me. Halfway through the first episode, I realized what it was. The sexual revolution, at least as shown here, is over. Key parties and other such wife-swapping bonanzas became popular in the '60s and '70s, after the family-friendly '50s and before everyone realized that there were serious consequences for this kind of lifestyle. Although there are still some swingers clubs around, it does more than strain credibility to suggest that an entire neighborhood would be involved in these sexual shenanigans. It's also never clear how Jack and Kay ended up at these parties in the first place. Didn't they come to save their marriage? Are these two otherwise intelligent people truly so deluded that they would believe casual sex would protect them from further infidelity?
Of course, these parties only ever amount to a gimmick. They are here to increase the tension between characters, as well as to offer a chance for Jack to become suspicious of Doug. But really, they are thinly veiled opportunities to allow each character to make it with every single other character of the opposite sex in unerotic, sleazy, and not-quite-explicit sequences. This parade of sexual encounters would be tiresome in a 2-hour direct-to-video sleazefest, but become intolerable in a six hour epic. This doesn't come from some prudish hatred for sex scenes, but in a series with this much sex, it could at least be romantic or steamy or sexy or meaningful.
Director Alex Pillai also commits one of the cardinal thriller sins: thou shalt not show the end at the beginning, unless there is a highly compelling reason to do so. By opening the first episode with footage of Jack and Doug burying a body, Pillai destroys all of the suspense through the first half of the series. By the time the twist arrives that drives the tension in the second half of the series, we no longer care about these characters at all. In fact, Jack could solve the main conflict at any point in the last three episodes with a quick call to the police. Much of the series is filled with similarly inane plot holes.
While Take Me isn't a high point in Robson Green's career, he does put in a thoughtful, sincere performance that has no place in such lurid trash. Jack is a compelling character, and would have been even more interesting had he been part of a better script. Unfortunately, he is surrounded by illogical and one-dimensional people. It's never clear why Kay has any interest in saving their marriage, since she is in love with another man, and pregnant by yet another. It certainly isn't for the sake of the children, who are ignored in favor of work and sex parties. Doug is sufficiently slimy, but there is nothing more to him than sliminess. Most of the other women are simply there to look attractive and put out on occasion. With this absence of character depth, none of the conflict resonates as deeply as it should. We should care when Jack's father (Keith Barron) dies, but their relationship is never important to the story. The characters are here simply to serve the murder plot, and nothing more (except perhaps their own sexual gratification).
The biggest sign that Take Me is a failed thriller? I didn't care what would happen at the end. If I spend six hours with a group of characters, I should feel some sympathy for them at the end. Here, I just wanted it to be over. This is a story that could easily have been told in a two hour film, rather than across 6 episodes. The miniseries is an odd format, because it isn't designed to carry multiple short stories like television, but it needs to have more depth than a feature film. It doesn't help that the gaps in logic broaden as the series progresses. By the end, it's completely ridiculous.
The series was shot digital, but hasn't made a graceful transition to DVD. Whether it's because of a PAL-to-NTSC conversion or just a lousy compression from high definition, the video transfer here is quite disappointing. The edges are either soft or jagged, and there are plenty of compression artifacts to be found. The sound is much better, with consistently clear dialogue.
Thankfully, there were no extras for me to wade through on the DVDs.
I don't really recommend Take Me to anyone. It doesn't work as a drama, it's downright pathetic as a thriller, and there are better "avenues" for people who want titillating sex scenes. As a 2-hour film, it may have worked on a Sunday afternoon, but 6 hours is difficult to endure. Take a pass on this one.
For failing in every respect, Take Me is banished from the neighborhood, and should be sterilized immediately.
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