Videophiled TVD: Thandie Newton goes ‘Rogue’

Rogue: The Complete First Season (eOne, DVD) is satellite TV’s answer to the pay cable original series. Produced for DirecTV’s Audience Network, it stars Thandie Newton as Detective Grace Travis, an undercover cop in Oakland working for a gangster named Jimmy Laszlo (Marton Csokas) when her young son is killed in a drive-by shooting. For reasons that are never really explained, she has a feeling that something else is behind his death and goes rogue when the official investigation goes nowhere, ending up in this shadowy place between the cops (with her former contacts serving as conduits of information to and from the police) and the crooks. Jimmy finds out she’s a cop but keeps her alive as long as she supplies him intelligence, because the same shooter who killed Grace’s son is also after him and his gang.

So yes, there is some sort of conspiracy here, with at least one corrupt cop, a mole in the force leaking information to Jimmy’s organization (including Grace’s true identity), and a power struggle between Jimmy’s two sons, the loyal but impulsive Alec (Joshua Sasse) and the brilliant but manipulative Max (Matthew Beard). Meanwhile Grace tears her family apart on her obsessive quest, abandoning the living to lose herself on vengeance for the dead. That’s the part of the show that really convinces. The writers hit us over the head by repeatedly explaining this to us, mostly through her exasperated husband (Kavan Smith), but that doesn’t make Newton any less effective in her manic pursuit and self-destructive behavior. The danger and the violence is something of a drug to numb the guilt and the grief, and her reckless pursuit finally lands her on the wrong side of the cops. Ian Hart plays an Oakland Detective with tendencies that land him in a compromising position and Ian Tracey (a veteran to two great Canadian crime shows, Da Vinci’s Inquest and Intelligence) is a San Jose colleague who left the field for a desk job, and they are the only guys in her corner.

This is another show shot in Vancouver subbing for the U.S., but the night shooting, industrial locations, grimy, gritty sets and liberal second unit photography makes the conceit work well enough even when it isn’t’ completely convincing. Being a DirecTV exclusive, the show also features the kind of gratuitous nudity and bloody violence unique to the pay cable model, and some of the episodes pour it on so thick it gets downright distracting. Ten episodes on four discs, plus the featurette “Script to Screen” and ten webisodes of “Rogue Files: Reparation.” And for the record, a second season is in production.

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TV on DVD: Chris Haddock’s Intelligence

To say that Chris Haddock’s Canadian TV series Intelligence is (or, as is now the case, was) as good as any American crime show is unfair to Haddock. It’s better, smarter, more sophisticated than its American counterparts, more clever in its tangle of narratives and less showy in a visual style. Set in Vancouver, B.C., a central hub for shipping between Canada, the U.S., Asia, and points beyond and the major western border crossing between the U.S. and Canada (as well as the home of Haddock’s previous series, Da Vinci’s Inquest), Intelligence is a domestic espionage show about the ground work of intelligence agents after the kind of international crime that Jack Bauer is too busy to bother with: gun running, drug smuggling, human trafficking. It’s also about the workings of local crime with international reach, in particular low-key Vancouver crime boss and marijuana smuggler Jimmy Reardon (Ian Tracey, of Da Vinci’s Inquest), who plays informant for the ambitious head of the Organized Crime Unit, Mary Spaulding (Klea Scott, from the third season of Millennium and a terrific Portia in a local Seattle production of The Merchant of Venice I had the pleasure of seeing a few weeks ago) in a quid pro quo exchange of information.

Ian Tracey as Jimmy Reardon
Ian Tracey as Jimmy Reardon

Jimmy steers clear of hard drugs and not just for moral reasons; he doesn’t like the increased scrutiny from local and national law enforcement and he really doesn’t like the violence it brings. So ratting out the coke and meth dealers is a no brainer for him and the bottom line of his business. Mary, meanwhile, is making a play to step up to the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), and discovers more intrigue inside the office than on the streets: what she thinks is a mere leak turns out to be a sieve pouring out information to the US, China, Russia, and who knows where else.

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