PICKS OF THE WEEK
Gone With the Wind 70th Anniversary Ultimate Collector's Edition (A)
U.S.; Victor Fleming/Sam Wood/George Cukor, 1939, Warner, Blu-ray
Like the flawed but spectacular Margaret Mitchell novel from which it derives, the movie Gone With the Wind has never lost its power to enthrall and bewitch. Even as the world, the audience and the social and political currents around it change, and the movie's vision of a charming, gallant, if sometimes foolish Old South -- a land of ruined antebellum splendor destroyed by war and the invading North, but rising indomitably from its ashes -- recedes into popular myth, producer David O. Selznick's phenomenal film, can still, like Mitchell's saucy and unconquerable heroine, Scarlett O'Hara, seduce or bulldoze almost all before it.
So can the movie's stars: Vivien Leigh as the perfect, cynical, heart-stopping, wickedly beautiful Scarlett; Clark Gable as roguish, rakish but secretly noble Rhett Butler, with his casual heroism and impudent machismo; Olivia de Havilland as long-suffering, sweet, saintly Melanie Hamilton Wilkes; Leslie Howard as Melanie's husband and Scarlett's obsession, weak Ashley Wilkes, trapped in his ideals; and even poor, lovable, Oscar-winning Hattie McDaniel, in all her bulky splendor, popping loose the corset of clichés that imprison her as Mammy.
And so too can the sometimes forgotten director, Victor Fleming, who guided the movie robustly along, along, aided greatly by his uncredited fellow directors, George Cukor (who began it and was fired) and Sam Wood, least of the three, who came on as a relief man and continued as second director after Fleming briefly collapsed. And second unit man and serial expert B. Reeves "Easy" Eason. And, of course Mitchell herself and writer Sidney Howard, who channeled Mitchell's mammoth and fiercely feminine vision, and together with the liberal Republican Selznick, filtered out the worst racist excesses of the book (read the novel again if you think I'm exaggerating), with an uncredited assist from that best of all Hollywood script doctors, Ben Hecht.
The film was, for decades, America's most popular picture, succeeding that other super-movie Dixie myth, Griffith's The Birth of a Nation, and today, it remains a touchstone for film buffs, whether they hail from South or North. The DVD set, which gets better every time it reappears, is a must if you love film -- and especially popular film.
Mitchell's novel was both a romance and a revenge. She wished to present her Atlanta home and forebears as a faithful daughter of the South should, to obliterate the legend of that other great Southern-set bestseller, Uncle Tom's Cabin, and though producer David O. Selznick tried to clean the story up, and remove its more offensive tirades, it still beats with a heart of old Dixie. (In the book, Rhett is not imprisoned for blockade-running, but for killing an "uppity" black, and "black" was not the word used.) And Gone With the Wind, so beautifully designed by William Cameron Menzies, set the template for movies about the South and the Civil War, for years to come -- until the post-war era really began to blow the old magnolias away.
It's the characters that keep it alive, and the ideal way Selznick cast them. You cannot imagine a more perfect Scarlett than the diminutive, eternally flirtatious, relentlessly sexy and ambitious Leigh, or, even without an accent or a damn, a better Rhett than Gable. De Havilland, Howard and McDaniel are equally right, even though Howard clearly doesn't like Ashley. And Mitchell populated her book with a grand pseudo-Dickensian gallery of supporting characters, all memorably incarnated here, from Thomas Mitchell as Scarlett's loved and fallen father Gerald O'Hara and Laura Hope Crews as Aunt Pittypat to Victor Jory as evil Yankee overseer Jonas Wilkerson. (Extras: commentary by Rudy Behlmer; documentaries; featurettes; short "The Old South" (Fred Zinnemann, 1940); newsreels; trailers; foreign language version excerpts.
The Exiles (A-)
U.S.; Kent McKenzie, 1961, Milestone
This unfairly neglected 1961 movie, about a day and night in the life of some Native Americans in the Bunker Hill neighborhood of Los Angeles in the 1960s -- was written and shot by a young, British-born filmmaker who died in 1980 after only a handful of filmmaking opportunities and who probably never knew that he had made anything like a classic.
But, like Allen Baron's Blast of Silence-- a low-budget Manhattan-set film noir made the same year -- The Exiles is a film that holds up superbly today. McKenzie, even with his minimal resources, hews out a slice of life that becomes indelible, that fulfills all its artistic goals and that probably looks better now than it did on its 1961 release -- when its low budget might have been held against it.
The Bunker Hill area, visually preserved here by McKenzie's bare-bones, poetic cinematography -- the cameramen were Erik Daarstad, Robert Kaufman and John Arthur Morrill -- is a colorfully bumpy place, with one well-known, spectacular trolley elevation called Angels Flight, and it had a sizable Native American community. Using a fine amateur cast, McKenzie shows these tribal refugees with empathy, candor and without sentimentality or prettification.
As the night begins and deepens, pregnant Mary is left to wander by herself and catch some movies, while her boyfriend and his buddies -- Homer Nish as Homer, Tom Reynolds as Tommy, Rico Rodriguez as Rico, and Clifford Ray Sam as Cliff -- wander through the stores and bars, drinking, gabbing, gambling and trying to pick up women.
Some of the guys and pickups wind up on a hill overlooking L.A., listening to the plaintive strains of an old American Indian song. Mary is left to wake up and watch the boys return, contemplating the sad blankness of her life and last night.
The Exiles is very quiet in style, very true, very powerful. It shows scenes and people taken from life and, with artistic clarity and without overemphasis. The movie convinces us in the end that we have seen these lives and this place as they must have been. (Extras: four shorts by McKenzie; commentary by Sherman Alexie and Sean Axmaker; excerpt from Thom Andersen's Los Angeles Plays Itself; TV show with Charles Burnett; other shorts; Jug Band Man script and master's thesis on The Exiles by McKenzie.
Star Trek (A-)
U.S.; J. J. Abrams, 2009, Paramount
The latest Star Trek movie, called simply Star Trek, is a genuine audience-pleaser, a film that can connect to the moviegoing masses, to the hard-core fans, and even to a few moviegoers who couldn't care less or think Trek is dreck and that Spock is a baby manual.
Here, director J.J. Abrams (of Mission: Impossible III and TV's Felicity and Lost) and writers Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman (Transformers) show how young Kirk (Chris Pine) and young Spock (Zachary Quinto) met after dear old days at the Starfleet Academy and their assignment (a complex chore, in Kirk's case) to the Enterprise, under Captain Chris Pike (Bruce Greenwood) -- just in time to lock horns with the crazed Romulan villain Nero (Eric Bana), who's hell-bent on blowing up everything Federated in sight. This is the first time out against heavy firepower and lizard-faced bad guys for the classic Enterprise ensemble. And now we know why Kirk was always so confident, Spock always so calm. At saving the universe, they're naturals.
The new Star Trek brings back the classic ensemble, all now played at a younger age, by younger actors, adds acting room for Leonard Nimoy himself, and mixes the emotional drama and social message stuff, with one slam-bang action sequence after another. Star Trek, James Bond-style, starts off with a super-bang -- a deep space blowup -- and then after some childhood action or psychological stuff for Kirk and Spock, keeps racing us from one space fight and planetary catastrophe to another, with time in between for jokes and drama. It's the action that tends to hog the show, but the personality that makes it hum.
The action is hellacious, the villains monstrous, the FX, as they say, mind-boggling. Meanwhile, the emotional-Kirk/logical-Spock clash scenes keep clicking, while the young Kirk dangles off so many towers and moving starship floors, he looks like a good candidate for cliffhanger insurance. Fans of quieter, more thoughtful fare -- like, the original TV show -- might start to feel they're on overload. But the mass audience and most Trek fans should be pretty happy.
Fight Club (A-)
U.S.; David Fincher 1999, 20th Century Fox, Blu-ray
David Fincher's adaptation of Chuck Palahniuk's novel took Palahniuk's tale of contemporary male panic about demasculinization and compensatory testosterone obsessions to extraordinary heights of dramatic hysteria and virtuoso film technique.
Ed Norton is the corporate wimp retail coordinator who wants to escape his world of sterile, mechanized touchy-feely victimhood, self-help sickness groups and thoughts of testicular cancer. Brad Pitt is the super-aggressive projectionist and soapmaker/stud Tyler Durden who pulls Norton into the world of fight clubs, where buddies and strangers bash and thrash each other to get back in touch with their primal slugger and inner bully. Helena Bonham Carter is the lone female who tempts them both. It's satire, of course, and a pretty deadly one. ("Fuck Martha Stewart!" Tyler cries in one barroom bull session.) But Fight Club's unrelenting machismo and ferocious fight scenes (and trick ending) made some critics squirm and overreact -- as if the movie were an ad for an actual new line of fight clubs some enterprising Hollywood entrepreneurs wanted to start up.
On the other hand, Ain't It Cool News's Harry Knowles dubiously claims this is a movie that divides the critical generations: that the young dig it, while the older are...scared of it? Nah. It's true that Fight Club does transgress political correctness pretty thoroughly, and that's the critical faction that gets troubled. But it's a much better movie than most of the glossy new action shows. It has wit, ideas, visual eloquence and sharp dialogue, to go with the smashing combat scenes -- plus a keen-witted cast that includes Meat Loaf Aday and Jared Leto. And this picture definitely does give your inner bully a workout. (Extras: commentary with Fincher, Pitt, Norton and Carter; deleted scenes; outtakes; behind-the-scenes vignettes; storyboards.
BOX SET PICK OF THE WEEK
Experimental Cinema 1922-1954: Avant-Garde 3 (B)
U.S./France; various directors, 1922-1954, Kino
The third of Kino's box sets of classic-era experimental films, some from France, but mostly from America, suggests that the avant-garde supply is beginning to thin out. I loved the first two sets, even though some of the Raymond Rohauer prints were scrappy. But there is only one great work here: Alberto Cavalcanti's lyrical and sentimental 1926 Parisian street film, Rien que les Heures, a.k.a. "Nothing but Time." And there's only one other from a true genius experimentalist, Dimitri Kirsanoff's 1951 The Death of a Stag.
But this anthology, complete with new notes, is still all pretty interesting, if sometimes in a navel-camera-gazing way. The films, mostly black-and-white, mostly with music tracks but rarely with dialogue, and often in the covertly homoerotic genre Jonas Mekas once attacked, often deal with the emotional confusion or persecution of alienated young men, never more so, of course than in Charles F. Klein's 1928 The Tell-Tale Heart, a Cabinet of Dr. Caligari knockoff made from Poe's story, and shot by the young, pre-Hollywood Leon Shamroy.
For the rest, there's stuff like 1952's Image in the Snow, a beefcake odyssey by Marie Menken's husband (George to her Martha), Willard Maas; films by then experimental or art house mainstays James Broughton, Sidney Peterson, Dudley Murphy and Mary Ellen Bute (art animation), and some surprises by Theodore Huff and the little-known Kent Munson (1948's noirish The Uncomfortable Man) by animator Chester Kessler (the 1951 Plague Summer, adapted from Kenneth Patchen's Albion Moonlight) and by the French Lettrist and Cocteau protégé, Marc'O: the surprisingly sunny 1954 Cannes Festival hit Closed Vision, set mostly on the Cannes beach.
There are also four bonus films, not strictly underground items, including Bela von Block's 1925 prohibitionist curiosity Episodes in the Life of a Gin Bottle, Robert H. Spring's '50s home movie Falling Pink, a snatch of John Parker's Plan Nine-ish 1955 C-movie Dementia, and Charles A. Ridley's priceless 1941 World War II dancing Hitler jape, Schichlegruber Doing the Lambeth Walk.
Maybe you had to experience films like these in the college film societies to still be touched by them. But I still am. (Extras: notes, outtakes and four bonus films.)
Includes: Danse Macabre (U.S.; Dudley Murphy, 1922), Rien que les Heures (France; Alberto Cavalcanti, 1926), Tarantella (U.S.; Mary Ellen Bute/Ted Nemeth, 1940), Tomatos Another Day (U.S.; James Sibley Watson, 1930), The Uncomfortable Man (U.S.; Theodore Huff/Kent Munson, 1948), The Petrified Dog (U.S.; Sidney Peterson, 1948), The Lead Shoes (U.S.; Peterson, 1949), Four in the Afternoon (U.S.; James Broughton, 1951).
Also: Plague Summer (U.S.; Chester Kessler), The Death of a Stag (France; Dimitri Kirsanoff, 1951), Image in the Snow (U.S.; Willard Maas, 1952), Celery Stalks at Midnight (France; John Whitney, 1952), The Voices (U.S.; John E. Schmitz, 1953), Closed Vision (France; Marc'O, 1954).
OTHER NEW AND RECENT RELEASES
South Korea, Park Chan-wook, 2008, Universal
Emile Zola's Therese Raquin, with its pre-James M. Cain deadly adultery plot, was made into a fine French period noir by Marcel Carne. Here, the same dark novel supplies the inspiration for a bloody, violent, riveting, sometimes nauseating vampire movie by Park Chan-wook, who made the snazzy Korea-noir OldBoy and here tries to come up with a "Dracula Always Rings Twice."
He almost does, though the film will be way too violent for people who think movies are way too violent -- and maybe not violent enough for others. Like Park's other movies, it's stylishly lurid and wildly exciting, and it has a great schnook-hero in Song Kang-ho, as the monk who woke up a vampire, and an absolutely terrific femme fatale in Kim Ok-vin (or bin) as Tae-ju, a gal who makes Lana Turner look like Bernadette of Lourdes. (In Korean, with English subtitles.)
My Sister's Keeper (B)
U.S.; Nick Cassavetes, 2009, Warner Home Video
Who would have thought that that the filmmaker son of indie radical John Cassavetes would become one of the American movies' more reliable maker of sentimental middle-class weepies? My Sister's Keeper, based on Jodi Picoult's book about a family coping and suffering as their eldest daughter Kate (Sofia Vassilievski) battles cancer, is movie that's hard to watch without crying -- thanks to Cassavetes' (The Notebook) unabashed romanticism and effective tear-jerking and the excellent heart-on-sleeve cast: Cameron Diaz and Jason Patric as steadfast parents Sara and Brian, Abigail Breslin as younger sister Anna (who was conceived partly to supply organs, parts and bone marrow for her desperately ill sister), Alec Baldwin as celeb lawyer Campbell Alexander (whom Abigail hires in a bizarre court case against her parents), and Joan Cusack as hard-nosed but soft-hearted Judge De Salvo, a stern, perceptive jurist who handles the hearing.
It's Anna's decision to sue that makes the movie unusual. She's fighting to regain control of her body and get medical emancipation from her mother's furious insistence that she keep providing body parts (in this case, a kidney) for her stricken sister. That gives the film drama, but it also frankly destroyed much of my sympathy for Anna. I'd be happy to donate a kidney to save the life of someone I loved, and I suspect many others would too -- or at least we want to believe we would. Even the last-minute revelation that illuminates Anna's thinking doesn't make up for the emotional confusion that her seeming stubbornness creates.
There's no denying that the film gets to you, though, especially when Vassilievski turns her radiant, dying, angelic face toward the camera and the light. Baldwin and Cusack deploy their considerable comic gifts to help balance the pathos, and Diaz is a dynamo of obsessed mother-love. Of course the movie is manipulative. Most tearjerkers, even the good ones, are. But it's nice to see a sentiment-laden film with a cast this good and a subject this human.
The Limits of Control (B-)
France/Spain/U.S.; Jim Jarmusch, 2009, Universal
A mysterious Lone Man (Isaach de Bankole) travels through France and Spain, making wordless assignations with all-star strangers (John Hurt, Gael Garcia Bernal and many others), some of whom keep passing him messages in matchboxes. Finally (spoiler) the Lone Man encounters the ultimate in corruption, or maybe Bill Murray.
Despite a splendid cast, picturesque settings and knockout Christopher Doyle cinematography, this new Jim Jarmusch movie has gotten him his worst reviews in quite a while. I partly disagree. The deadpan acting, measured pace, painterly compositions and anti-Establishment theme may annoy some. But that's partly because the first three on that list are such a deviation from the movie business as usual, at least for American writer-directors. Jarmusch has always been a rebel and a stylist, and this movie has lots of both: rebelliousness and style.
On the other hand, I'm sorry to say that Isaach de Bankole, whom I usually like, may have been thrown a dirty curve with this lead role. He's asked to keep our attention while doing and saying almost nothing. It's a tough job. And that kind of role needs an actor who's a bit less strikingly handsome and more oddball, explosive and dangerous-looking -- like Lee Marvin in Point Blank, a movie that's a very obvious influence here.
I think Jarmusch might have been better advised to cast himself as The Lone Man and Bankole as his boss. After all, Jarmusch is a founding member of the Sons of Lee Marvin, and, from some angles, he even looks a bit like L.M. -- or maybe like his wayward offspring. Unfortunately, even if the movie were improved by something like that (and for me, it's good enough as it is), J.J. would then probably have gotten even worse reviews. Somebody might even have called him a wannabe European socialist.
Is Anybody There? (B-)
U.K.; John Crowley, 2009, Magnolia
Michael Caine plays a fatherly, seedy old magician who opens up a world of wonders for British lad Edward (Bill Milner), a lad who lives in his parents' old folks home. This sentimental drama from director John Crowley (who made the fine, rowdy Intermission) and writer Peter Harness, is not as magical and marvelous as it could have been. And the elderly patients are often written a little too quaint or corny, despite a fine cast that includes Leslie Phillips and Peter Vaughan. But Caine rescues the movie, as he has many, many others, ever since he became an unlikely trail-blazing Cockney movie star in the '60s.
I saw Caine again recently in a snatch of 1966's Alfie on TV recently, and I had to marvel at his immense simpatico with the camera, at the way he effortlessly chats up the audience and how, endowing this selfish but charming London seducer with his blond good looks and pleasing manner, he was able to draw us right into the world of the movie. He does that here again as magician Clarence. Even though the movie takes a few bad turns, he keeps it on course. Caine -- or "The Great Caine" in the words of his old East End chum Terence Stamp -- is one actor who never lets us down.
U.S.; Lynn Shelton, 2009, Magnolia
Two normally macho straight guy ex-college buddies in Seattle -- responsible married man/city planner Ben (Mark Duplass) and still wandering Andrew (Joshua Leonard) -- end up at a party with a bisexual artist, and decide to make an amateur porn movie, for a local contest, in which they have sex together. This plan, which they make while drunk and laughing, then start artistically justifying and philosophizing about when sober, causes no end of havoc between the two and Ben's exasperated wife, Anna (Alicia Delmore), leading to one of the most uncomfortable motel assignation-or-not scenes ever. (The porn is being shot without crew or director.)
I thought this was pretty slight -- though the acting isn't bad, in an improvy way. But the rationalizations, soul-searching and evasions of the two, under the writer-directorial hand of Lynn Shelton (who appears briefly as one of the lesbian partiers), while believable, didn't strike me as that funny. Humpday also boasts one of the worst pickup basketball games I've seen. Are these guys basketball virgins as well?
U.S.; Larry Charles/Dan Mazer, 2009, Universal, Blu-ray
Irrepressible Sasha Baron Cohen does a gay fashionista routine, as campy Bruno. I thought Borat and its attack verite style were overrated; this movie suggests I was right.
Red Heat (C)
U.S.; Walter Hill, 1988, Lionsgate, Blu-ray
A fast, violent, often ridiculous and overheated unlikely-buddies cop thriller from the usually reliable Hill (asleep at the fish-out-of-water switch this time), with Arnold Schwarzenegger as a hardcase shark-out-of-water Russian cop trailing a drug dealer to Chicago and to Arnold's eventual bad-mouthed partner in-crimehunting, Jim Belushi. It's all bang-bang male bonding, in a picture that could have used the Blues Brothers. They used to make a movie like this every week or so in the '80s, and damn, were they a chore to watch.
Near Dark (B-)
U.S.; Kathryn Bigelow, 1987, Lionsgate
A hip, violent Southwest vampire movie, horror in an Easy Rider setting, that's considered a cult film in some quarters -- though not by me. With Adrian Pasdar, Lance Henriksen, Jenny Wright and Bill Paxton. Bigelow wastes talent on a blood-drenched script by Eric Red (The Hitcher).
OTHER NEW AND RECENT BOX SETS
The Claudette Colbert Collection (B)
U.S.; various directors, 1933-1947, Universal, 3 discs
Claudette Colbert (born Emilie "Lily" Claudette Chauchoin in Saint-Mande, France) was Hollywood's '30s-'40s French-American cutie, a chic flirt with little-girl bangs, roguish eyes, and a rich, throaty purr of a voice made for sophisticated patter. She reportedly only liked photographers to shoot her left side, she was at her best with men who towered over her (like Gable, Cooper, Joel McCrea and Fred MacMurray), and she was rumored, like Garbo and Dietrich, at times to go Sappho.
Colbert was queen of the Paramount lot after her unprecedented and unrepeated feat of starring in three of the 1934 "Best Picture" Oscar nominees (all eventual classics), DeMille's Cleopatra, John M. Stahl's Imitation of Life and, the movie that swept the Oscars that year (including one for Claudette as best actress), Frank Capra's It Happened One Night. For Capra, C.C. defined the term "dizzy heiress" (as Lombard and Hepburn did for others), incontrovertibly proving the superiority of her gams to Gable's thumbs, and happily watching the walls of Jericho came tumbling down, Hays Code notwithstanding.
Colbert was an expert, silky comedienne, and her best comedies were probably It Happened One Night, Preston Sturges' screwball masterpiece The Palm Beach Story, and, from spicy Charles Brackett-Billy Wilder scripts, as directed by Mitchell Leisen (whom Wilder hated), the timeless sex comedy Midnight and the more dramatic (and political) Arise, My Love.
I would include with that group, and from this box set, another Colbert-Brackett-Wilder collaboration, directed by Ernst Lubitsch, Bluebeard's Eighth Wife. Wife is reputed to be Lubitsch's worst movie. We should all have such worst movies. And we should all see a Claudette Colbert or two at our own private Jerichos and our own private midnights. (Extras: documentary Claudette Colbert: Queen of the Silver Screen; trailer.
Three-Cornered Moon (B-)
U.S.; Elliot Nugent, 1933
A fun but over-stagy, pokey early screwballer, with Colbert the siren of a nutty rich family that includes mama Mary Boland and college boy Wallace Ford, torn between work-phobic writer Hardie Albright and hunk doctor Richard Arlen.
Maid of Salem (B)
U.S.; Frank Lloyd, 1937
The Salem witchcraft trials, with rebel/skeptic Fred MacMurray battling to keep accused witch Claudette alive and safe from the likes of child accuser Bonita Granville, plus Gale Sondergaard, Beulah Bondi, Donald Meek and Sterling Holloway. Basically, this is The Crucible with a happy ending, and it's better than you'd think. If the ending were unhappy, Maid of Salem would be considered a classic ahead of its time.
I Met Him in Paris (B-)
U.S.; Wesley Ruggles, 1937
Claudette in the City of Light and the snows of Switzerland, romanced by Melvyn Douglas and Robert Young. "I've been to Paris, France and I've been to Paris, Paramount," Lubitsch once said, "And I prefer Paris, Paramount." Paramount, Switzerland isn't bad either.
Bluebeard's Eighth Wife (A-)
U.S.; Ernst Lubitsch, 1938
Claudette and Gary Cooper meet cute over some pajama tops and bottoms in a department store in Cannes, Paramount, and romance beckons, even as Coop's mind crumbles. She's an impoverished aristo, he's a rich Yank businessman used to getting his way, and David Niven and Edward Everett Horton (peddling a royal bathtub) are along for the rocky Riviera ride. Written by Brackett and Wilder, and probably Lubitsch's most acidulous, even cold-hearted movie. But it's better than its rep, and Ninotchka was only a year away.
No Time for Love (B-)
U.S.; Mitchell Leisen, 1943
Here's a good example of why Wilder hated Leisen: a chi-chi romantic comedy, with Claudette as an arty fashion photographer, with Macho Fred MacMurray as a testosterone-heavy sandhog CC shoots and inflames. Ersatz sophistication, to which Leisen was prone when he lacked Wilder, Brackett or Preston Sturges.
The Egg and I (B)
U.S.; Chester Erskine, 1947
The one Universal show in this mostly Paramount set, and from Betty MacDonald's best-seller about the travails of mixing marriage with chicken-farming: Claudette and Fred try to find happiness in a farm falling apart, with eggs that won't sell and neighbors who turn out to be Ma and Pa Kettle (Marjorie Main and Percy Kilbride, in the movie that famously introduced their unbuttoned hillbilly clan). What can you say? It works.
Van der Valk Mysteries 1 (B-)
U.K.; various directors, 1972, Acorn
Six well-written but not overly well-filmed hour-long films from the Nicholas Freeling Amsterdam-set police mystery-thrillers, starring Barry Foster (the genial "Bob's your uncle" fruiterer/killer of Hitchcock's Frenzy) as sophisticated detective Piet van der Valk. If you like good, quick-witted British mysteries -- here the more hard-boiled police-procedural kind -- you'll probably enjoy it.