Both films come in at 90 minutes (Taken's credit roll is longer than Wallander's) and both deal with the most popular, need-a-villain?/Try this one! catch-all, bug-a-boo since the evergreen-but-now-a-bit-boring terrorist: the human trafficker. Really, this new, all-purpose bad guy comes complete with everything: violence (against women: ten more points!), exotic locales, foreign accents, nudity, sex, the works! By all of the above, including my headline, I do not mean to make fun of human trafficking, which is one of the sleaziest and most inhumane of criminal occupations, particularly when it takes in the sex trade (just ask The NY Times' Nicholas Kristoff).
|Wallander stars Kenneth Branagh (at left and top) as a titular Swedish super-sleuth (from an extremely popular series of novels) in a three-part series which began this past Sunday on PBS stations. It bears most of the hallmarks of both the Masterpiece Theatre and Mystery experiences that viewers have come to expect over the decades that these series have graced the small (lately somewhat larger) screen: classy production values, a star or two or three (here Branagh is joined by David Warner, who plays his father), important themes and -- since this bears "Mystery" moniker -- crime.|
|Mystery was almost always the weak sister to Masterpiece, with lame if fussy plots, frail and obvious characterization, and a sameness coupled to a heavy hand that rendered, for me at least, the series a usual washout. (Yes, there were exceptions along the way, as is always true.) For Wallander, the idea seems to have been to couple the class of Masterpiece with the crime of Mystery, but the result -- if this first episode is any indication -- is small potatoes. The production is given an elegant look (gorgeous vistas of yellow fields, sea-scapes and posh homes) in wide-screen and Wallander is surrounded by the usual crime staff (above, none of them at all interesting except in their ability to move long the so-so plot) and typical suspects (most of them red-herrings, with the non-herring a little too obvious). The murders (several) are shown in the usual "classy" manner that renders them arty and exotic rather than particularly "real." Most of the actors do "Swedish" via British accents, which we're used to from our history of hearing actors playing Germans use British accents (not Tom Cruise, of course). The investigative prowess of Wallander, the character, we must take on faith, as far too little is shown us and, as usual, all the pieces fall into place neatly for a ho-hum, told-you-so climax.|