This review covers Homicide: The Movie, which was a two hour made for TV movie based on the series Homicide: Life on the Street. The TV movie aired months after the series ended a seven season run. For those not familiar with the show, it was adapted from David Simon's novel Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets. The show featured intense drama about the daily interaction and cases of the Baltimore Police Department homicide unit. For more information about the series please refer to my reviews of season three, season four, season five, season six, and season seven.
The events in the movie take place several years after the end of the series. It showcases a large cast with all the faces from the series' seven seasons returning. This includes past and present characters: Frank Pembleton (Andre Braugher), Tim Bayliss (Kyle Secor), Melissa Leo (Melissa Leo), Mike Kellerman (Reed Diamond), Stanley Bolander (Ned Beatty), Beau Felton (Daniel Baldwin), Steve Crosetti (Jon Polito), Meldrick Lewis (Clark Johnson), John Munch (Richard Belzer), Laura Ballard (Callie Thorne), Stu Gharty (Peter Gerety), Terri Stivers (Toni Lewis), Paul Falsone (Jon Seda), Rene Sheppard (Michael Michele), Megan Russert (Isabella Hoffman), Al Giardello (Yaphet Kotto), Mike Giardello (Giancarlo Esposito), Ed Danvers (Zeljko Ivanek), Julianna Cox (Michelle Forbes), George Griscom, (Austin Pendleton), and J. H. Brodie (Max Perlich).
Everybody gets brought back together when Gee takes a bullet. He is the favored candidate running for Mayor of Baltimore City. During a rally Gee is shot three times. The tragic event bands all of the homicide detectives who worked under Gee's command to find the shooter. The opening scene that details everyone returning together was my favorite part of the movie. I really liked how it was filmed. One by one the characters learned of the shooting. Watching each character as they transitioned from focusing on the task at hand to realizing their former shift lieutenant had been shot was tremendous. With no dialogue, their faces and body language told you everything they were thinking. Unfortunately after this one tremendous scene, the excitement dies down and it is clear the movie doesn't compare at all to the series. While it is somewhat entertaining, it fails to be truly gripping.
One of the problems is that there were just so many characters and their roles in the movie were pretty slim. If you have followed the series' seasons, then you've had a chance to get to know many of the characters and only receving a couple of lines from them is a shame. I also thought it was too bad because several of the characters from season to season sort of disappeared. In some cases there was some closure with their characters leaving the series, but in others, there was none. Then to see them magically appear in the movie with an insignificant role was disappointing.
One prime example is Kay Howard. Season five was the last time she appeared in the series. In the beginning of season six, it is revealed she transferred to the Fugitive squad with no other explanation than that. She was a fairly strong character in the earlier seasons and it was shame she disappeared. On the other side of the coin, new characters also get very little attention. Jason Priestly plays a young and new homicide detective named Hall. He shows up in the early stages of the film and disappears pretty quickly. It's too bad because his character could have added an interesting fresh perspective. Basically, there is very little character development for the majority of the cast.
Another difficulty I had with this movie was how the story unfolded and the affects it had upon the characters. I won't go into clear detail, but I believe that season seven had enough closure to be satisfied with the series ending. However the story opened some wounds and left them covered in salt. At the end, I was disappointed and unhappy with where it left the characters.
On the plus side, the movie focused on the stronger characters of the series. Pembleton and Bayliss play a very big role in the story. Not only are they important to the investigation to finding Gee's shooter, but like previous seasons, there is a great deal of focus on the two's relationship. Between the end of season six and this movie, Pembleton and Bayliss have not talked at all. At the end of season six, Pembleton turned in his badge and went onto teaching. One aspect of this movie is the two repairing their relationship and understanding each other. I thought it was great to see them partnered up again. There is some focus on Gee's son Mike. He struggles with his father being shot and he addresses some of the issues he had in season seven.
Overall I think this TV movie does a fair job. Considering the large number of characters, you can't expect to get the same develop as found in the TV series. However that does not change the fact the movie lacks the intense drama found in the TV series. The bottom line is Homicide: The Movie is best reserved for the fans of the show.
This DVD release is presented in its original television aspect of 1.33:1 ratio full frame color. Like the season sets, the picture suffers from a noticeable grain. However, this look gives the show a rough feeling that truly captures the show's dramatic ambience.
The audio in this feature is presented in English 2.0 Dolby Digital stereo surround. The dialogue is very crisp and clean with only a slightly noticeable hiss. There are subtitles in English and French.
There are no extras included with this release.
Homicide: Life on the Street quickly became one of my favorite television series, because of its intricate characters. In many several well developed stories you got the opportunity to really know, like, and dislike them. The character development is one of the series' strong points. The stories were also intriguing, powerful, and gripping. The TV series is a great show. Unfortunately, this TV movie is not nearly as strong. It features the series' entire cast, but is limited and lacks a good focus on the characters.
Overall, Homicide: The Movie was entertaining, but not even close to the magnitude of excitement and drama that comes from the TV series. If you are a fan of the series, I think it is worth a rent. Of course, if you have never seen an episode of the TV series or you are not familiar with characters, I would not recommend watching this movie at all. Watching this blindly without understanding the characters and past stories might not give you the same effect. Without knowing, you will miss out on several references to past episodes and various conflicts with the characters.