Videophiled TVD: ‘The Red Road’ begins

Anchor Bay

The Red Road: The Complete First Season (Anchor Bay, DVD) – Sundance TV (formerly The Sundance Channel) continues to establish its own brand of intelligent, dramatically compelling TV shows with this atmospheric series set in rural New Jersey.

A small town cop (Martin Henderson) enters into a wary partnership with a drug-dealing ex-con (Jason Momoa) from a nearby Native American tribe to cover up a hit-and-run that his wife (Julianne Nicholson), a recovering alcoholic, committed during what seems to be a relapse. In fact, it’s much more, which only makes Henderson more protective (to the point of denial). There’s an uneasy relationship between the town and the tribe, which is fighting for formal recognition from the government while struggling with poverty and crime, that is exacerbated by a forbidden romance between the cop’s teenage daughter and the ex-con’s young half-brother. The physically imposing Momoa, who played both Conan and the barbarian king from the first season of Game of Thrones, adds a dangerous edge to the drama simply by his presence, radiating anger and resentment from his every glance.

Following in the tradition of shows like Rectify and The Bridge, the series is deeply embedded in the cultural and regional specificity of the setting. It’s not just the social politics of the moment but a whole history fraught relations that hovers over the drama, and the idea of heroes and villains gets murky in a drama where the characters share a complicated history that is slowly revealed through the course of the six-episode season.

It has the look and feel of an American independent feature, helped immeasurably by James Grey (The Immigrant) helming the first episode and Lodge Kerrigan (Keane) directing two subsequent episodes of the series. They are instrumental in setting the careful, moody atmosphere. Supporting turns by Tamara Tunie, Tom Sizemore, Mike Farrell, and Lisa Bonet add to the weave of complicating factors.

Six episodes on DVD with three featurettes. It’s also streaming on Netflix.

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TV on Disc: ‘Law & Order: Criminal Intent – The Eighth Year’

Law & Order: Criminal Intent – The Eighth Year (Universal) opens like pretty much any other season, with Vincent D’Onofrio’s Detective Goren and Kathryn Erbe’s Detective Eames following a murder case to a political family with dirty little secrets, but the second episode brings in a new player and a whole new chemistry.

Jeff Goldblum wanders into episode two like an alien, arriving to a crime scene with a big smile on his face, bags full of food in his hands, and a breezy attitude that immediately puts off Detective Wheeler (Julianne Nicholson), a veteran of the squad (and the show) who is a little low on trust, thanks to losing her old partner (farewell, Mike Logan, we’ll miss you) and her fiancé in the previous season.

Detective Zach Nichols is a terrific Goldblum creation, entering every conversation with a banter that bounces around like a bebop solo and veers off in sudden zig-zags before circling back to the case, keeping his subjects off balance while he lobs them with questions. He’s the son of psychiatrist parents (unseen this season but keep an eye out for a guest shot in season nine) and he has his own style, which makes him an interesting contrast to the more intense and obsessive Goren. And, frankly, more fun. Nichols seems to enjoy his work, even as he keeps frustrating Wheeler with his unconventional methods. It’s not just the suspects he manages keep of balance with his methods.

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