Rob Lowe trades in the hawks and doves of “West Wing” for cat and mouse psychological games in “Framed,” a TNT original based on a British miniseries from thriller writer Lynda La Plante (“Prime Suspect”) and adapted and directed by Daniel Petrie Jr. (“Beverly Hills Cop”). Pic is an enjoyable duel between the not-so-good and the not-quite-evil.
Lowe’s first big post-“Wing” project is not without fault — despite buffed biceps and tattoos, Lowe doesn’t exactly fit the mold of seasoned NYPD detective Mike Santini. But, it’s not a David Caruso-like nosedive into an ill-conceived leading man role, either.
Here, Lowe’s co-star Sam Neill functions as a big safety net. As the dapper con man Eddie Meyers, Neill puts Lowe’s rep as a screen charmer to the test.
Plot involves a constant switcheroo of who’s on top. Eddie is suave and manipulative, and Mikeisn’t as dumb as he looks. In fact, Mike was the youngest NYPD officer to make detective third grade, until his fast-track career was sidelined when he was implicated in a bribery scandal.
Five years on uniform duty humbled Mike but didn’t weaken his resolve or his skills. While on a vacation in the Bahamas with his family, Mike risks endangering already tenuous relations with his wife Lucy (Alicia Coppola) by putting work first when he discovers Eddie, the missing key witness in a big New York money-laundering case, hiding out in luxury.
Eddie agrees to testify on the condition that Mike handle the interrogations. Holed up in a luxurious digs, with every moment caught on tape, Eddie begins to try to impress Mike, regaling him with details of his life with plenty of women and money. The two begin to enjoy each other’s company and seem to form a bond. Eddie seems to appreciate Mike’s forthright and honest nature, while Mike is slowly seduced by the fine meals and clothes dolled out by Eddie. As ethical lines begin to blur, it’s hard to tell exactly who is outsmarting whom.
Lowe struggles with the hardened New York detective accent and demeanor, which all but disappear by the end of the pic. But such details are outweighed by the believable rapport between Mike and Eddie. Lowe deserves credit for tackling the salt-of-the-earth Mike character, especially since the slick con role would be a walk in the park for him .
Neill, as Eddie, delivers a delicate balance of charm and malice.
Director Petrie keeps the action simple but crisp without sacrificing the important subplot surrounding Mike’s home life. Petrie could have played the con game in the whimsical retro style of Steven Soderbergh’s “Ocean’s Eleven,” but instead chose to keep the pic fun while maintaining La Plante’s cop thriller sensibilities.