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Above Suspicion: Complete Collection DVD Review

Above Suspicion: Complete Collection DVD cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Above Suspicion: Complete Collection (2009-12)
Season & DVD Details

Writers: Lynda La Plante (novels & teleplay), Noel Farragher (S3 teleplay) / Directors: Gillies MacKinnon, Christopher Menaul, Catherine Morshead / Executive Producers: Liz Thorburn, Lynda La Plante / Producers: Jolyon Symonds, Lynda La Plante, Chris Clough, Hugh Warren, Cherry Gould

Regular Cast: Kelly Reilly (DI Anna Travis), Ciarán Hinds (DCS James Langton), Shaun Dingwall (DCI Mike Lewis), Michelle Holmes (DC Barbara Maddox), Amanda Lawrence (Joan Faulkland), Celyn Jones (DS Paul Barolli)

Notable Guest Stars: Jason Durr (Alan Daniels/Anthony Duffy), Nadia Cameron-Blakey (Commander Jane Leigh), Daniel Caltagirone (DS Paul Barolli), Malcolm Storry (John McDowell), Edward MacLiam (Richard Reynolds), Sylvia Syms (Mrs. Hedges), Simon Williams (Charles Wickenham), Holliday Grainger (Sharon Bilkin), Edward Bennett (Edward Wickenham), Victoria Grove (Justine Wickenham), Hannah Murray (Emily Wickenham), Stine Stengade (Julia Larson), Benedikte Hansen (Helga Nolan), Julian Sands (Damian Nolan), Richard Clothier (Pete Jenkins), Ray Fearon (DCI Sam Power), Richard Brake (Marshall/Alexander Fitzpatrick), Robbie Gee (Silas Roach), Geoff Bell (Harry James), Dara Devaney (Sean O'Dell), Samantha Coughlan (Helen Mitchell), Jack Fortune (Mr. Delany), Bryony Hannah (Felicity Turner), Kate O'Flynn (Jeanie Bale), Alex Price (Dan Hutchins), Leo Gregory (Lester James), Ray McCallan (Tony James), Joanna Vanderham (Amanda Delany)

Running Time: 533 Minutes (11 episodes) / Rating: Not Rated

1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen; Dolby Stereo 2.0 (English)
Subtitles: English; Not Closed Captioned; Extras Subtitled
Suggested Retail Price: $59.99 / UK Airdates: January 4, 2009 - January 23, 2012
Release Date: January 13, 2015 (DVDs originally released March 2012, February 2013, and February 2014)
Four single-sided, dual-layered discs (DVD-9s) / Three Black Keepcases in Cardboard Box

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Before their far-reaching film careers thrived with appearances in the likes of such transcontinental productions as Sherlock Holmes, Flight, Heaven Is for Real,
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, The Woman in Black, and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, Kelly Reilly and Ciarán Hinds starred in the British television series "Above Suspicion".

Adapted from the crime novels of "Prime Suspect" creator Lynda La Plante, the first two-part series was produced in 2008 aired on ITV at the beginning of 2009. Three additional short-run series debuted in successive Januarys, through 2012 when the leads were recognizable by face (if not name) to many modern moviegoers. The four self-contained stories reached the United States, as many UK procedurals do, on DVD from Acorn Media, in three different sets released in three successive winters. This winter, Acorn has issued "Above Suspicion": Complete Collection, a box set bundling the four discs they had previously released.

DC Anna Travis (Kelly Reilly) dates a movie star (Jason Durr) who could also be a serial killer in "Above Suspicion." DCS James Langton (Ciarán Hinds) is convinced he's found the killer before he can prove it in "Above Suspicion: The Red Dahlia."

The first series, titled simply "Above Suspicion" like the 2004 novel on which it is based, brings together DC Anna Travis (Reilly) and DCI James Langton (Hinds) to try to solve a series of grisly murders that have occurred over the past twelve years. The victims are typically prostitutes, London "weekenders" who are discovered with their hands tied behind their back by a bra and in a most unsettling state. Travis is new to the department. Langton knew and respected her father, a colleague of his who recently passed away. Langton is an unflappable old pro whose work is his life and often includes glasses of scotch on the job. Anna is young, beautiful, and sickened by some of the awful sights and smells this line of work produces.

Both are determined to find their long at-large killer, whom they initially suspect could be Alan Daniels (Jason Durr), a rich, famous, handsome actor whose career is about to take off in the US. Raised in a brothel by an abusive mother, Alan might have a motive for targeting prostitutes. But he denies everything, and even has the nerve to hit on Anna. Knowing the risks but also the potential rewards, Langton agrees to let the two go on a ballet and dinner date that could yield the break this old serial killer case with a fresh victim.

The second series, "Above Suspicion: The Red Dahlia", consisting of three 45ish-minute episodes, opens with the discovery of the corpse of an unidentified young woman, who is naked, neatly cut in half, and with a smile carved onto her face. The more that Anna and Langton dig into this case, the more they discover just how closely it mirrors that of the Black Dahlia, a heinous never solved murder in 1947 Los Angeles which captivated the world. This British killer is an exacting copycat, down to the letters he mails to journalists, which undermines the strict press embargo the detectives are trying to enforce, and a follow-up killing. The victim is eventually found to be a quiet girl who had been working for an older man, the presumed killer of great wealth and influence.

Detective Inspector Anna Travis (Kelly Reilly) holds up a print-out on one of the FBI's Ten Most Wanted criminals in "Above Suspicion: Deadly Intent." In "Above Suspicion: Silent Scream", the troubled existence of slain film actress Amanda Delany (Joanna Vanderham) takes shape in flashbacks.

"Above Suspicion: Deadly Intent", the third series, centers on the murder of a retired DI (that's Detective Inspector), who is found dead in a known London crack house. The case reunites Langton and freshly promoted Anna, both of whom are determined to get to the bottom of this mystery, with their reputations are on the line.
Their investigation leads to a fiancée, a Danish wife, the wife's sister and her husband, an upset neighbor family, a young drug user, a bold drug dealer, the potent and lucrative black market drug Fentanyl, and a long-missing fugitive on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted list.

Finally, "Above Suspicion: Silent Scream" sees Langton and Travis investigating the death of Amanda Delany (Joanna Vanderham). Stardom was a curse for Delany, a 24-year-old film actress who used cocaine and other hard drugs, had a history of promiscuity, and was a nightmare to work with. Delany's murder at home by multiple stab wounds is a puzzle for Langton, Travis and company to solve. Langton has something else on his mind too: he's surprised and devastated to have been passed up for a promotion to commander, hurt by the botched Fitzpatrick investigation. He buried the embarrassing oversights of that case and now believes that a colleague brought it to the attention of his superiors. As such, no co-worker is, ahem, above suspicion for the embittered Langton, not even the trusted Travis.

"Above Suspicion" is consistently adequate. Like many British procedural series, this one emphasizes a mystery plot over characters, barely defining even the two leads who feature prominently in every series. Travis and Langton do not appear to have much of a life outside of their work. He is something of a father figure to her, but their partnership also has the hint of romantic interest from both directions. The crimes are never compelling enough to keep you guessing, and most of the times they are less a whodunit than a howtheydunit. Still, they are easily enough to keep you watching, even if the material is a bit conventional and clearly beneath the lead actors' talents.

In the US, procedurals often seem to play best for older viewers. That's probably true in the UK too, but the series takes strides to ostracize those viewers with some really gruesome imagery of extremely realistic dead bodies. Such content is present at the series' start, setting the tone for a program that doesn't feel cutting edge at all, except for those cringe-inducing murder scenes and unsightly post-mortems.

It's a little surprising that Reilly and Hinds would keep returning to this franchise after working for directors like Paul Thomas Anderson, Guy Ritchie, and Robert Zemeckis, but the work must not have been too strenuous or time-consuming. This kind of material doesn't demand great range or first-rate dramatics, just looking comfortable bandying about terminology and questioning suspects and witnesses. Those two leads and their less familiar supporting cast are all up to that task without ever being proficient enough to move you more than your typical British television procedural.

DCS James Langton (Ciarán Hinds) and DI Anna Travis (Kelly Reilly) solve crimes together in "Above Suspicion."

VIDEO and AUDIO

The discs held in this 2015 box set are identical to the ones Acorn first released from 2012 to 2014, down to disc art and packaging. Each series is presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen and Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo sound, with optional English subtitles. Shot on film, the first series looks and feels older than it is, sporting some minor imperfections on the print and at times heavy grain. The remainder are shot, more commonly, on HD digital video cameras. They do not suffer from any perceivable flaws, but they do lack the detail and clarity you'd find in HD broadcast or Blu-ray (a format Acorn hasn't released a great deal of their catalog on). Given the cinematic nature of the series, you'd think a Dolby Digital 5.1 surround track would be in order, but while basic, these mixes are not troubled.

Bonus features pay much notice to the creation of the gruesome corpses prominently seen on the show. Kelly Reilly discusses her character in this series 1 interview.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

Each series is treated to a nice handful of extras similar in both quantity and quality.

On the first, filmographies are provided for Kelly Reilly (two pages) and Ciarán Hinds (three).
We also get a 9-page biography of author Lynda La Plante, who is clearly being served well by the multiple publicists listed in the end credits.

A photo gallery slideshow (1:41) displays mostly publicity stills, with a few behind-the-scenes shots mixed in.

"Making the Show" (5:57) gathers remarks from director Christopher Menaul, lead and supporting cast members, and La Plante, which are complemented by some behind-the-scenes footage.

"Meet the Creator" (3:42) lets La Plante speak at greater length about the inspiration for the story, her process of writing crime novels, and the cast assembled here.

Finally, "Behind the Scenes", arbitrarily divided into Part 1 (7:20) and Part 2 (5:39), gets more remarks from cast and crew on their experiences, including Reilly on her squeamishness.

The cast of "Above Suspicion" poses for a CBS-friendly publicity shot in the Red Dahlia photo gallery. Former actress Lynda La Plante loves discussing her creative process as the author, adapter, and executive producer of "Above Suspicion."

Accompanying "The Red Dahlia" on the second disc is another photo gallery (1:13).

"How the Dummy Was Made" (2:41) goes into detail about the fabrication of the gruesome corpse that gets a decent amount of screentime.

"Adapting the Novel for TV" (8:15) supplies another La Plante interview, this one touching on casting, costumes and production design.

Next we get five Meet the Cast and Crew pieces, treating us to comments from producer Chris Clough (3:58) on the technical side and personnel, director Gillies MacKinnon (4:15) on the cast he had, La Plante (3:27) on the story, reminding us how much she loves the camera (before writing, she was a television actress), the principal cast (3:22), and "The Guest Artistes" (4:26), whose talk about the wild sex party they filmed strictly for still photos is complemented by some more behind-the-scenes footage.

On the third series, "Deadly Intent", extras begins with "Meet the Cast" (7:23), a featurette that has the lead actors discuss their characters and where they are this season. "Meet the Guest Cast" (5:57) allows the season's secondary actors to speak about their characters.

"On the Director" (3:49) finds producer Hugh Warren and the actors acknowledging the direction of Gillies MacKinnon. "Behind the Scenes" (9:51) shares Warren's reflections on production as well as some crew-hosted B-roll footage.

"Lynda La Plante Interview" (2:45) is really just a short speech, in which the author and teleplay writer describes the story this season tells.

The most recent page of Ciarán Hinds' filmography impresses, even with the omission of such films as "Race to Witch Mountain" and "Ghost Rider 2." These three actors discuss The James Brothers, the unit-driving siblings they portray.

A photo gallery (0:42) sets nine publicity stills from the season to music.

The filmographies of Reilly and Hinds and biography of La Plante resurface.

The fourth and final series, Silent Scream,
starts with "Meet the Main Cast" (9:29), which has the returning lead actors discuss their characters and their duties this time around.

"Meet the Guest Cast" (11:35) has Joanna Vanderham and the series' other notable newcomers provide similar description for their supporting roles, again complemented by some behind-the-scenes footage.

"The James Brothers" (4:38) captures thoughts from the three actors playing the series' sketchy unit drivers.

Another interview finds author La Plante explaining (2:44) how she drew from her own acting experiences to write about Silent Scream's movie star murder.

Director Catherine Morshead (4:26) addresses joining this series and the cast, some of whom she's worked with before and some of whom she hasn't.

Cherry Gould gets the chance to speak at length (6:31) about her experience as the series' producer, which she uses to celebrate her cast and crew.

Finally, another photo gallery (1:11) offers a slideshow of publicity stills set to score.

The first disc in each set opens with menu-inaccessible ads for Acorn Media programming in general, "Prime Suspect", "Trial & Retribution": Set 3, "Touching Evil": The Complete Collection, "Vera", "The Fall": Series 1 and "Falcón."

Each disc plays clips from the featured series within a design resembling the cover art. As usual, Acorn kindly supplies synopses and scene selections for every installment.

Uninterested in saving you shelf space, the three black keepcases share a cardboard box that upholds their uniform design with a different shot of the two leads against a skyline. In-case inserts advertises Acorn Media's online streaming television and social networking presence.

DCS Langton (Ciaran Hinds) and DI Travis (Kelly Reilly) respond to an unexpected development at the end of "Above Suspicion: Deadly Intent" with a scowl and a nail bite, respectively.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Although Kelly Reilly and Ciarán Hinds have stood out in some notable feature film work, put them in a routine crime procedural series and their talents somewhat disappear. "Above Suspicion" is adequate television, but nothing more. There is little to distinguish this program from other British productions of a similar nature. The acting is fine yet forgettable. The stories are moderately involving but never absorbing. Perhaps the defining trait is that the murder victims' bodies here are more realistic, disturbing, and prominent than elsewhere, which is not exactly a reason to tune in.

Acorn's Complete Collection DVD adds only a box to the three sets they released over the past three years. The feature presentations remain satisfactory and there is a wealth of pretty good if light bonus material. The price is a bit better than buying the individual sets separately. But I struggle to believe people not drawn to the genre or the leads will be compelled enough by the show to wish to watch it more than once.

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Related Reviews:
Kelly Reilly: FlightHeaven Is For RealSherlock HolmesSherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows
Ciarán Hinds: There Will Be BloodHarry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2Race to Witch MountainThe Rite
Ciarán Hinds (continued): John CarterGhost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance
Acorn TV: The Fall: Series 1Jack Taylor: Set 1Jack Irish: Set 1Dirk GentlyThe Broker's Man: Series 1

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Reviewed February 6, 2015.



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