Kinetic camera work, indictments of the system from within and an invigorating blend of quirkiness and intensity — the trademarks that established “Homicide” heads and tails above its dramatic peers in the first four years of its life — are back at play in this reunion telepic. The gang’s all here, young and old, and fortunately the focus is square on the actors who gave this show its heft and charisma.
Andre Braugher, as Frank Pembleton, and Kyle Secor, as Tim Bayliss, hold this pic together just as they did the show. It’s a family reunion in the name of crisis, and fans of the series will delight as old faces crop up at the headquarters of the Baltimore P.D.’s Homicide Division; thereafter, the drama is what holds the interest.
Al Giardello (Yaphet Kotto), former chief of the Homicide squad, is running for mayor and is on his way to a rally at the city’s Innerharbor. He’s shot and rushed into surgery.
Word spreads, reaching son Mike (Giancarlo Esposito), who has given up his FBI gig to work the streets as a patrolman, as well as his legion of past charges: Bayliss is fly fishing; Pembleton is teaching ethics and morality at a Catholic school; Stanley Bolander (Ned Beatty) is starting on a breakfast beer; Kay Howard (Melissa Leo) comes in out of nowhere; and John Munch (Richard Belzer) gets away from the “Law & Order” set to help solve the crime.
Final cast of “Homicide” — with the addition of Jason Priestley as the inexperienced hothead — is taking the lead, and they are certainly made to look like lost school children. (Scripters make it very clear who their favorite children are here). The elders draw the plum assignments, the street work, while others are relegated to reviewing videotape of the incident.
Bayliss, currently on leave, and the retired Pembleton — “I just couldn’t take another confession,” he tells his former partner — are told to stay away from the case, and yet they pursue leads on their own. First, though, they show the youngsters how to handle a suspect in the interrogation room.
Investigation progresses just as so many “Homicide” episodes from its 1991-1998 run and, not surprisingly, Bayliss and Pembleton solve it.
They question a TV news cameraman (“Oz’s” Eammon Walker) in a scene worthy of “Homicide’s” best, in which camera work, direction, acting and writing all form a tense and unnerving bond. On one level, it’s a bit too pat and too early in the show; the final “confessions” end up giving the telepic its real weight.
Dreamlife sequences featuring “Homicide’s” two dead cops alternate between poignant and absurd; Hollywood’s common afterlife sequences rarely work well on the small screen, and this is no different.
Character depictions are all in line with their histories. Meldrick Lewis (Clark Johnson) is still the cool cat slinking by; Bayliss wears his emotions on his sleeve; Munch finds conspiracy theories at every turn; and Pembleton, recovered from his stroke but less intense than in his heyday, provides the show with a conscience. Pic is shot with a gritty realism without overusing the hand-held camera.
On a side note, could the rough treatment of a Court TV reporter by Mike Giardello be a commentary on the cabler’s relationship with the series? Just curious.