NBC’s “In the Line of Duty” made-fors about law enforcement officers killed on the job have scored fairly well with viewers — one reason why NBC has had so many of them. But that’s not to say they’re good, as the seventh in the series, “The Price of Vengeance,” makes clear.
Based on the story of a Los Angeles police detective who is stalked and killed by a gang leader, this ostensible drama seems drained of life. The vidpic begins with the robbery of a movie theater manager, which brings Detective Tom Williams (Michael Gross) on the job. The victim won’t testify, and the murderers blithely continue on their bloody way. Eventually gang leader Johnny Moore (Brent Jennings) finds Williams a thorn in his side, and kills him.
From the anemic robbery to the lusterless closing scene in which Moore is found guilty of manslaughter, the direction and acting misfire. The script by Keith Ross Leckie — which has eyewitnesses uttering lines like “Nobody saw nothin’, that’s what they told us to say,” and police officers saying, “Sometimes you wonder which side the law is on”– is cliched, and motives are murky.
The characterizations aren’t thought out well. For example, Williams has a 17 -year-old daughter who rebels with less bite than Shelley Fabares in “The Donna Reed Show.” And when Williams’ young son is suspended from school for stealing someone’s lunch money, an overacting Gross yells, “Don’t you know I put people in jail for this?”
It seems as if everyone from director Dick Lowry to the usually reliable Dean Stockwell and Mary Kay Place sleepwalked through this one.