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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » DNA
DNA
Acorn Media // Unrated // May 13, 2008
List Price: $39.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Jeffrey Kauffman | posted May 6, 2008 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Recommended
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P R I N T
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The Movie:
If the exponential propagation of various locale-differentiated crime "procedurals" graced by a certain three letter acronym on United States television isn't enough to convince you of this genre's popularity, consider this not so subtly renamed DVD release of a British television series which originally aired under the title "Donovan." But DNA is catchier, isn't it, not to mention obviously reminiscent of CSI. The good news is that DNA offers more than just a CSI: London wannabe, with a flawed and fascinating lead character (well portrayed by Tom Conti), who actually owes as much to Monk as to Grissom.

The series' pilot portrays Joe Donovan as a former forensics specialist who has turned best-selling crime author. When a crime scene has his name spelled in blood splatter across the wall, the London FIU (yet another acronym, this time for Forensics Investigative Unit) call him in, ostensibly to consult, but obviously to do a little 'splainin'. What is soon revealed is that Donovan had a checkered past, where his procedural error may have led to the dropping of a charge against a serial murderer who in fact may be perpetrating these new crimes. Donovan's lapse years previously led to a nervous breakdown, whose effects he still experiences, including catatonic phases and something akin to sleepwalking.

What soon transpires involves his wife, a fetching Samantha Bond (Miss Moneypenny in the newer Bond films), who it seems is bedding most of the victims in the case. Avid mystery buffs are going to have no problem identifying the real culprit well before the two episode first series comes to a close, but that doesn't diminish the fun of watching Donovan get back at the murderer after having been neatly framed himself.

There's some very nice character work done here by Conti, Bond and Ryan Cartwright as their petulant son. The scenes between Conti and Bond crackle with a marital verisimilitude, especially after her manifold affairs are uncovered. The two actors' ability to go from a wounded shout-match to a self-aware, humor-laden, detente will strike any married viewer as the "real thing."

The second series, consisting of three additional episodes, finds Donovan now in charge of the FIU, and surrounded by a new cast of supporting characters, including Amelia Bullmore (who must certainly be one of the busiest British character actresses around) as his chief aide, Evie. Cartwright also follows in his father's footsteps and attempts to become a forensics specialist himself, and Conti and Bond continue a finely-wraught dance as they attempt to recover from her infidelities. Again, while the actual mysteries may be relatively easy to decipher (especially if you pay attention to some of the setups), there's such consistently good character work done here that it really doesn't matter in the long run.

While there's little of the patently absurd high-tech hoo-ha that is a regular feature of the CSI franchise, there's enough of the "procedural" element in DNA to satisfy fans who revel in the gory details. While the pilot apes CSI's blue-laden lab palette, the rest of the show develops its own, less derivative, visual style that suits it well.

Conti, who vocally seems to be channeling Patrick Macnee at times, has never really had his due as an actor, especially considering his fine, and Oscar-nominated, film work over the course of several decades. Whether you call this series "Donovan" or DNA, it's a great chance to see an underappreciated actor doing some nicely nuanced and understated work in a relatively complex (at least by television standards) role.

The DVD

Video:
The enhanced 1.78:1 image is generally crisp, if a bit dark with some poor contrast occasionally.

Sound:
The standard stereo soundtrack is, as is usual in these cases, perfectly fine for television fare.

Extras:
None are offered.

Final Thoughts:
This British take on what those stateside probably thought was their exclusive purview is a neatly cast and performed, if at time over-obvious plot-wise, mystery crime series. Lovers of British sleuth-fests will most likely get a kick out of DNA. Recommended.

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"G-d made stars galore" & "Hey, what kind of a crappy fortune is this?" ZMK, modern prophet

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