|Erika Sainte, Olivier Marchal, Crimson Rivers|
SBS on Demand, notwith-standing the insertion of up to a minute of advertising every ten minutes or so (but not always), is the go to place for Euro crime series. Recently sampled included Raven/Kruk and series 7 of Spiral. Some but maybe not all go onto one or other of the SBS channels where you can watch them at varying speeds, sometimes a stately episode per week, other times with a binge of multiple episodes.
The Crimson Rivers was made into a big budget feature movie way back in 2000, with a script by the author of the book on which it was based, Jean-Christophe Grangé. Jean Reno played Niemans, the rather unorthodox, scruffy and brusque detective and Vincent Cassel played his sidekick Kerkerian. The film was directed by Matthieu Kassovitz. I cant remember a thing about it. It must have been a hit because they did a sequel, once again with Reno but this time with Benoit Magimel as the sidekick and Olivier Dahan as director.
And there it stood until a year or so ago when possibly either at Grangé’s instigation or at least his enthusiasm, a TV series of eight eps was released, all written by the author. Back to square one but after watching for a while you work out the Grangéformula. Niemans is played by Olivier Marchal and this time out his sidekick is a female with a troubled past Camille Delaunay played by Erika Sainte.
Notwithstanding the grisly goings on it’s another series designed to show off the country. The formula is as follows. Niemans and Camille are a part of a new highly mobile investigation office. They are sent out, almost entirely without any judicial intervention in the manner of Spiral, into some remote part of the country to investigate a murder, usually something ritualistic which involves the detectives having to delve into and understand some ancient order or custom. Indeed, in the first story (each self-contained story being done over two 50+ minute eps) the cops arrive over the border in Germany. There they encounter a prickly local cop who stands on his digs about protocol and lets them know of local colour and they investigate until they uncover deep dark secrets associated with an archaic institution. The formula is repeated for the next three stories. One is in a monastery, one a bleak small town one in some backwoods Amish type cult community.
At some point in each story Camille is in deep peril and has to be saved or rescued, the local cop’s resentment boils over and the deep dark secrets are uncovered. That’s it. Throughout Neimans wears a three quarter length overcoat with the collar turned up and Camille seems to have a similarly limited wardrobe. In the first story she hurls herself at the local cop while driving out to investigate something or other and he pulls off the road for some instant movie sex. Neimans remains celibate throughout but sins in other directions, most notably in his regular resort to beating up on suspects and witnesses and his willingness to ignore any offers of assistance from colleagues. He frequently doesn’t even tell Camille what he’s up to.
After four stories, over eight eps, none of which are dull you have definitely seen enough. Not a series that benefits from binge watching and any desire to revisit the Jean Reno features has also been well and truly quashed.
Wisting is much more interesting, a Norwegian police procedural set in a small coastal town named Larvik. William Wisting is the lead police detective (but not the top cop) in town and the story opens with a discovery of a body in the snow and the slow early realisation that the murderer may be an American serial killer. Enter guest stars Carrie-Anne Moss and Ritchie Campbell as FBI agents. She is convinced that the killer is someone who slipped her fingers back home long ago. Moss and Campbell are allowed to stay on the periphery most of the time though Campbell’s one night fling with Wisting’s daughter complicates matters a great deal. Wisting (played by the till now unknown Sven Nordin) is a widower with a couple of recalcitrant grown up kids who feel constantly let down by their father’s dedication to his job. They come and go in his life. Interestingly Wisting has no great foibles in the manner of most detectives – no alcoholism, no secret dependence issues, no inappropriate relationship with the town hooker, nobody he hates from long ago. He is a stolid force but a good honest cop.
Tracking down the serial killer takes up five of the ten eps and allows Moss to go home but a few time bombs have been planted, most notably the release from prison after 17 years of a killer, Haglund, whom Wisting put away. That case has lots of loose ends and a publicity seeking lawyer emerges to take up the matter of Haglund’s innocence and the tampered evidence that put him away.
Wisting goes from national hero to villain in an episode and shortly thereafter spends the rest of the series suspended from the force. Notwithstanding, he attempts to re-investigate the earlier crime while also getting involved in the new, and similar, disappearance of another young girl.
Misleads, fresh suspects and deep suspicions of some of Wisting’s colleagues all feature. His closest partner Nils is suspected throughout, first for one murder then for another – greatest mislead is a giant relating to the methods Nils is using to get his wife off her drug dependency.
Wisting is not a detective who is going to take the mantle of the always troubled Sarah Lund from The Killing or the totally eccentric Asperger’s Saga Noren from The Bridge. Too dogged and not enough troubled backstory I’d have to say, notwithstanding the insertion of his disappointed kids.
But as a police procedural that again shows off the Norwegian patrimony to great effect its very smart and I raced through its ten x 43 minutes eps at a gallop.