Thursday, March 11, 2004

Exiled: A Law & Order Movie

* * ½ (out of four)
Seen 7 March 2004 in Jay's Living Room (ReplayTV'ed off USA)

Unlike a lot of movie enthusiasts, I like television, and try not to look down on it. And over the past few years, Law & Order has become one (actually, three) of my favorite shows, and the whole police procedural genre has crowded science fiction out as my favorite, at least for that medium. They fit each other well; you can tell a good story in 45 or 90 minutes (for the occasional two-parter or TV-movie, like Exiled), which is just about the perfect amount of time so that a logical reveal of the guilty party isn't a letdown from the build-up.

Exiled is less of a straight procedural that the weekly Law & Order series; where the focus on those shows is on the crime itself, the focus here is on the central cop, Mike Logan (Chris Noth), who had been transfered to Staten Island after punching a city councilman at the end of L&O's fifth year (which, at the rate Universal is releasing DVDs, I should see sometime in 2010), and misses the challenges and high stakes of working Homicide in Manhattan. He sees a chance to get back when the body of a dead prostitute is found in the water between the two boroughs, and he claims the case for himself. Even if it doesn't get him transfered back, it will at least allow him to work something like his old job.

The case itself is interesting, spinning off into investigations of organized crime and police corruption. The procedural elements aren't quite as effortless as they are on the series, but still interesting. It was kind of odd to see Logan as a full, three-dimensional character; the cops on L&O for the most part have personalities and character traits, but that tends to affect what they say more than what they do. Here, the plot is driven by Logan's actions, and his characterization as something of a selfish hothead was at odds with what I'd seen on the first-season DVDs, although it's a believable extrapolation from his circumstances.

Exiled is kind of an interesting experiment, though - using L&O characters for what is not really a L&O story. In the end, though, it suffers a bit by being neither fish nor foul - not the lean, efficient procedural that its parent series is, but not exactly a great character study, either.

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