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Wellspring presents
Wire in the Blood: Shadows Rising (2002)

"Don't we all do what it takes not to be the victim?"
- Dr. Tony Hill (Robson Green)

Review By: Matt Peterson  
Published: February 10, 2004

Stars: Robson Green, Hermione Norris
Other Stars: Lou Gish, Alan Stocks, Doreene Blackstock, Mark Letheren, Doon Mackichan, John Michie, Alan Williams, Amber Batty
Director: Nicholas Laughland

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for violence and some nudity
Run Time: 01h:36m:54s
Release Date: January 13, 2004
UPC: 720917803227
Genre: television

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B+ BB-B D+

DVD Review

Crime dramas are a dime a dozen these days. We've got three incarnations of Law and Order, soon to be three versions of C.S.I., and a host of others that come and go. Tragically, some of the best of the genre, like the recent Boomtown, do not survive. For a genre that's been hashed and rehashed, it is difficult to come up with something original. This difficulty does not hinder the success of these series. For most viewers, an engaging, twist filled crime tale is all that is required—a collection cliches combined in a new way can be fulfilling.

Based on a series of novels by Val McDermid, the British series Wire in the Blood contains elements from several previously successful programs. Most prominently, this is a combination of C.S.I. and Cracker, with a bit of The Silence of the Lambs to spice things up. There is an impressive ensemble cast, headed by a male and female lead, with the obligatory sexual tension. Dr. Tony Hill (Robson Green) is a clinical psychologist whose eccentric, motivated tendencies allow him to get inside the minds of the killers he hunts, leading him to his quarry. He is accompanied by Detective Inspector Carol Jordan (Hermione Norris), an ambitious woman whose convictions are strong, yet sometimes misguided. Pretty formulaic, but the sum of its parts ends up being more than I anticipated.

In the installment entitled Shadows Rising, begins with two cases. Jordan investigates a series of death threats against the prominent TV duo Jack and Amanda Vance (John Michie, Doon Mackichan, respectively). This is nothing out of the ordinary for the celebrities, but things are beginning to escalate. Meanwhile, Hill is called to the countryside to uncover the mystery behind the discovery of a young girl's body in a lake. More girls begin to disappear and turn up dead, all of which look remarkably similar. A brutal killer with a sexually influenced M.O. is at work. As these cases progress, it seems clear that the two are related. Before Jordan and Hill can track down the serial killer, they must explore all possible avenues, and endure unexpected twists.

This two-part story is presented as two 45-minute episodes, the first of which sets up the premise. This extended format gives the story room to breathe and develop fully. It's too bad most TV shows are unwilling to embark on story arcs (excluding 24, of course). The plot really begins to engage in part 2, when twists, suspense and some simply great character situations make a powerful impact. The complex plot threads and multiple characters are interwoven quite well, clearly stemming from some strong source material. The piece is well directed, showcased by some great editing and scene transitions. There are some pretty drastic plot shifts that some viewers may find hard to swallow, but for a story in this genre to genuinely surprise, some suspension of disbelief can be required. Graphic violence, nudity and adult themes are present, so keep this away from the kids.

The ensemble cast is well done. Shadows Rising is clearly not the show's first storyline, indicated by several references throughout to previous events that were over my head (this is my first time watching the show). The real highlight is the fine interplay between Robson Green and Hermione Norris—two skilled actors who know how to express the right balance of professional and personal tension. Green's Tony Hill is intelligent, academic, passionate and frequently enters a somewhat trance-like state, projecting himself into the killer's thought process, complete with inner monologue. At times, he comes off as too perceptive and arrogant, approaching telepathic abilities. Both of these individuals are so consumed by their work, all else is an afterthought.

So far, I'm encouraged by this series. The story, style, and performances are rather strong, creating an above average, entertaining crime drama. I would like to see a bit more character development among the mains, revealing some of their human failings, and shying away from their near superhuman crime solving abilities (which are very entertaining, but what about the weaknesses of Dr. Hill, et. al.?). This is nothing groundbreaking, but is certainly noteworthy.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Rationo

Image Transfer Review: As usual, Wellspring has delivered a PAL to NTSC conversion of this recent television series. Motion blurs and digital artifacts are noticeable on an image that looks intentionally muted in colors, and exhibits good detail. Compositions are quite cramped in the presented 1.33:1 frame, suggesting the series was shot in the native HDTV ratio of 1.78:1. I'm not sure if this show is presented letterboxed in the UK, but for a DVD release, an anamorphic widescreen presentation should be included if it was shot wide. Cropping hurts the grade!

Image Transfer Grade: B-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno

Audio Transfer Review: The 2.0 stereo is good, exhibiting fine clarity and dynamic range. There is no surround information encoded, which is surprising for such a recent program.

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 24 cues and remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
Weblink/DVD-ROM Material
Packaging: Keep Case
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL

Extras Review: Aside from a trailer for the six-part series, there are several text based extras: A biography of Robson Green & Hermione Norris, information on Coastal Productions (who produced the series), a bit on the author Val McDermid and a weblink.

Extras Grade: D+


Final Comments

An entertaining, edgy entry that could benefit from some expanded character development. Recommended for crime drama and British fiction fans alike.


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