Review: ‘The Bridge’

"The Bridge" Review

Timely in its look at the U.S.-Mexico border, a flawed lead makes 'The Bridge' look rickety

FX has helped set the bar pretty high for moody crime dramas, and held up against that standard, “The Bridge” simply doesn’t measure up. Infused with gritty atmosphere and an intriguing setting — set in motion by a grisly crime along the Mexican-U.S. border, evoking memories of “No Country for Old Men” and “Touch of Evil” — the tone comes much closer to “The Killing,” and stumbles badly in its mismatched detectives. Although there are elements here that merit continued attention, most notably Demian Bichir as a dedicated Mexican cop, there are too many missteps to ensure safe passage.

Like “The Killing” adapted from a popular European drama, the series begins with the death of a judge, who is found bisected on the highway connecting the Texas town of El Paso and Mexico’s Juarez. Jurisdictional headaches ensue, with a young female detective, Sonya Cross (Diana Kruger), eager to pursue the case wherever it might lead, while the more reluctant Marco Ruiz (Bichir) knows that on his side of the fence, asking the wrong questions can quickly get you disappeared.

Shot in Texas, Mexico and Los Angeles, and directed by Gerardo Naranjo (“Miss Bala”), the grim pilot certainly conveys a nagging sense of unease, and can’t help but feel timely with border security and immigration reform currently in the political spotlight. Look a little closer, though, and “The Bridge” spans relatively little new ground.

Dramatically speaking, Kruger’s character is clearly the weak link, a failure in terms of both conception and casting. Virtually robotic in her actions and dialogue, she’s utterly lacking in people skills — “Monk,” without the overt diagnosis to explain her odd behavior. (The press materials note she has Asperger’s Syndrome, but three episodes in viewers are pretty much left to guess at the cause of her quirks, which include thoughtlessly stripping in front of her boss, played by Ted Levine, and saying to a woman who has just lost a relative, “I’m sorry if I didn’t exercise empathy.”)

Flawed is one thing — lord knows that worked for “Homeland,” where “The Bridge” exec producer Meredith Stiehm (who developed the show with Elwood Reid) worked for a time — but juxtaposed with the otherwise grim tone those tics become the show’s Cross to bear, an incongruous distraction from the myriad plots surrounding the central mystery, which include some nefarious characters who look like possible suspects, a cranky journalist (Matthew Lillard) drawn into the investigation and Annabeth Gish as a wealthy American rancher who begins to discover strange revelations about her late husband.

Thanks to those threads and especially to Bichir — who, helpfully, isn’t presented as just a white knight — “The Bridge” isn’t a total loss, but it’s notches below the criminal underbelly territory FX has explored with programs like “Justified” and “Sons of Anarchy.”

That’s not to say “The Bridge” is structurally unsound, but for now, anyway, it looks a little too rickety for its own good.

The Bridge

(Series; FX, Wed. July 10, 10 p.m.)

Production

Filmed in El Paso, Tijuana and Los Angeles by Filmlance, Shorewood, Elwood Reid and Shine America.

Crew

Executive producers, Meredith Stiehm, Elwood Reid, Carolyn G. Bernstein; producer, Patrick Markey; director, Gerardo Naranjo; writers, Stiehm, Reid; based on the original series “Bron”; camera, Attila Szalay; production designer, Jonathan Carlson; editor, Harvey Rosenstock; music, Ryan Bingham; casting, Rebecca Mangieri, Wendy Weidman. 90 MIN.

Cast

Diane Kruger, Demian Bichir, Ted Levine, Annabeth Gish, Thomas M. Wright, Matthew Lillard, Catalina Sandino Moreno.

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  1. TDCGirly says:

    I was looking forward to this series and think Bichir is fantastic, but I could not tolerate Diane Kruger’s character. Not only is her character too stilted to be believable as a detective, but her German accent kept creeping in. Replace her and alter the character a bit and I might be willing to give it another shot.

  2. As an El Paso native, the many nuances were spot on and totally credible. And what can I say Demian is outstanding and in his element 100%. Diane, poor Diane. How did a character such as hers end up in El Paso anyway. It would have been more realistic to have casted an actress who’s character was half Anglo (to satisfy/court the white audience) and half Mexican, then it seems more likely she would be in the El Paso area. Even switching the rancher’s wife with Sonya and vice versa would have made more sense no? She started growing on me in the second episode. I will continue to watch and give it a chance. The underlying message and tone is important and has a place in our time, now.

  3. Sean says:

    After I watched the first episode of The Bridge I was pissed off. I hated the cheap way they left the viewer hanging on, wondering what was behind that door the women was about to open. Also, I disliked the performance of the lead, Diane Kruger. She was so totally unlikeable and lame I just couldn’t take her seriously. And every time I saw Ted Levine I was reminded of his character as Buffalo Bill in The Silence of the Lambs. He still has that unique voice. Demian Bichir gives a solid, albeit subdued performance but the rest of the cast is pedestrian at best. This series does not stand up next to Justified, The Following,
    Mad Men, Breaking Bad, The Sons of Anarchy, or other much better shows. I won’t be watching again, way too many commercials and not compelling enough to hold my interest.

  4. So far, this series is appallingly bad…absolutely horrendous writing, worse acting, particularly from the horrible miscast of the female lead. FX’s winning streak is now officially over, at least for the time being. This actually needs to be cancelled. Why is it that whenever an American producer or director decides to rip off a European series it’s inevitably cr*p?

  5. S. McCloskey says:

    After the first 15 – 20 minutes, “hit delete” no can do. Bad acting (can the lead actress speak English or is that mumble English), bad directing, another film in the dark. This series cannot even think to compete with “Justified”. We had high hopes for a good summer replacement but terribly disapointed. Very bad all around.

  6. A.W. Robertson says:

    I have only seen the Pilot episode of this show but I’m afraid it is hard to imagine this series surviving long with such a weak actress as the female lead. It’s unfortunate as most of the other cast were well above average.
    I think the premise has tremendous potential and it’s one that Krugers character didn’t have to be impaired by Aspergers syndrome to make it more interesting, especially since it’s very hard to believe that she would be leading a crime investigation.
    /

  7. Cory Williams says:

    Are you kidding me??? I agree that this show looks terrible. My issue is that you were attempting to compare it with other, more excellent, FX shows and all you did is compare it to “SoA” and “Justified”. While both of those are stellar (especially the fall of Clay and the Pot Lady storylines respectively), for you to not even mention the pinnacle of FX’s programming genious is straight up irresponsible. Everybody that knows things knows that it was “The Shield” that changed television forever.

    Get with it reviewer.

  8. Rosemary says:

    I expect the male lead will carry the show. He is a fabulous actor; Kruger not so much.

  9. Joe says:

    The reviewer stated that the female detective is pointlessly quirky. Based on the fact that all the behaviour he cited was on the original version of the show I think he is completely missing the nature of the character. She isn’t quirky–she has asperger’s. If someone does an American remake it’s sad u don’t care about the original. The original is almost always better.

  10. “He’s saying that the element of the female character lacking empathy and understanding social norms, including changing in the middle of the office, are exactly what happens in the original Scandinavian series i.e. ‘came straight from the Scandinavian program this is an adaptation of -’ it wasn’t difficult to understand then either.” – Dina

    No, you don’t get it either. Who cares if it was in the Scandinavian show or not. I’m reading a review of the US show. Why should I care about the Scandinavian Show? When I watch a TV show I watch it for that show, not a history of the show. It has zero value in a review of finding out what took place in the original show, I am reading the review for this US show only. Why is that so difficult to understand. If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and squacks like a duck, maybe it is a duck, duh!

  11. Joe Smart says:

    Everything this critic cites as not liking about the female detective came straight from the Scandinavian program this is an adaptation of–including the scene where she changes her shirt in front of her boss. In the original program it’s strongly suggested that she has asperger’s syndrome, although the actual diagnosis is never mentioned.

    • Your comment makes zero sense. Are you saying he did not Review the US Show that starts this week and that he reviewed the Scandinavian Show instead?

      • No, you don’t get it either. Who cares if it was in the Scandinavian show or not. I’m reading a review of the US show. Why should I care about the Scandinavian Show? When I watch a TV show I watch it for that show, not a history of the show. It has zero value in a review of finding out what took place in the original show, I am reading the review for this US show only. Why is that so difficult to understand. If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and squacks like a duck, maybe it is a duck, duh!

      • Dina says:

        He’s saying that the element of the female character lacking empathy and understanding social norms, including changing in the middle of the office, are exactly what happens in the original Scandinavian series i.e. ‘came straight from the Scandinavian program this is an adaptation of -‘ it wasn’t difficult to understand then either.

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