CRIMINAL JUSTICE (BFS, 2008-09) D: Otto Bathurst, Yann Demange, w/ Ben Whishaw, Maxine Peake. Rating: NNN; DVD package: none Rating: NNN
Powerful drama and a clear-eyed dissection of the English legal system make Criminal Justice compelling viewing.
Each of the two five-hour miniseries stands alone, linked only by the visual style (browns, greys), an unhurried pace and the device of following an accused person through the crime, arrest, jail time, trial and aftermath.
In the first case, a young man spends the night with a woman and wakes up to find her dead. He has no memory of committing the crime, so guilt is an issue, but the theme is deal-making on all levels and its attendant corruption and compromise. In the second, a woman stabs her husband. The question is why, and the emotional ramifications, competing agendas of all concerned and man-woman relations provide the thematic drive.
The plots are trickier than they sound. Small details in the beginning loom large in the end, and surprising twists add to the ever-present tension.
Ben Whishaw and Maxine Peake, the respective accused, engage our sympathy with vivid portraits of bewildered misery, though neither character is to be entirely trusted. Nor is DCI Bill Faber (a standout performance by Denis Lawson).
This bare-bones edition doesn't help anyone who's at sea on the English legal system, but the shows themselves provide plenty of explanatory detail.
EXTRAS English audio. No subtitles.