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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Cracker: The Complete Collection
Cracker: The Complete Collection
Acorn Media // Unrated // March 10, 2009
List Price: $119.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by John Sinnott | posted June 30, 2009 | E-mail the Author
Buy from Amazon.com
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
Highly Recommended
E - M A I L
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P R I N T
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The Series:


Eddie "Fitz" Fitzgerald (Robbie Coltrane) is a brilliant psychologist. 
He is able to read people with ease, discovering their motivations, fears,
and weaknesses.  He can analyze and diagnose a person almost instantly. 
He can do this to everyone but himself.  Fitz is a deeply troubled
person, whose personal life is spiraling downward out of control. 
Anyone can see what is wrong except himself.  He is addicted to alcohol
and tobacco.  He gambles heavily, and lords his great intelligence
over everyone.  That causes him to have few friends, and a very strained
relationship with his family.

Fitz' psychological skills make him very useful to the police though. 
He has an exceptional eye for detail, and is able to examine a crime scene
and recreate what happened with an uncanny ability.  While his personality
pushes away many on the police force, his ability to get the job done makes
him indispensable.

Cracker is an all around excellent show.  Not your typical
detective program however, the main character is almost an anti-hero. 
It's the fact that Fitz is so imperfect that makes him such an interesting
'detective.'   His personal troubles, that permeate the show,
ironically illustrate how the only content time in his life is when he's
working on a case.

One of the great things about the show is that it is very unpredictable. 
Over the course of the original TV run there were some very unforeseen
twists and turns in the lives of the main characters.  Mistakes are
made, big mistakes, which have lasting consequences.  Major characters
are affected in adverse ways, which is very realistic, but surprising for
a TV show.  This also leads to the uncertainly which increases the
suspense.  If one major character can be hurt, why can't others?

Robbie Coltrane, who is best known for Hagrid in the Harry Potter movies,
is an excellent actor, and plays the part to perfection.  His character
has many moods and he plays them all very well.  Coltrane is able
to fold all of Fitz' diametrically opposed personality traits into one
believably real person.  A splendid job.

The rest of the supporting cast is simply superb.  There is not
a weak actor in the bunch.  And, just as importantly, there isn't
a stereotypical character either.  All of the characters have frailties
and strengths.

Barbara Flynn does an excellent job as Fitz's wife, Judith.  In
one episode she learns that they are overdrawn by thousands at the bank,
and that Fitz has forged her signature on a 2nd mortgage, the money from
which he has also lost gambling.  You can feel her rage and sorrow
and heartbreak all at the same time as she yells at him.  "Why not
a normal addiction Fitz?  Heroin or Cocaine?  Do too much and
you're dead.  Why pick something so bloody limitless?"

Another quality the show has is a great sound track.  The music
used in the show is very effective.  It helps set the mood and underlines
the themes of the show.  It blends in well and is unobtrusive.

The episodes in this collection, all of the Cracker material broadcast
in the UK in chronological order, include:

Season One:

The Mad Woman in the Attic:  A serial killer has murdered
a woman in a train compartment.  A man who had jumped off the moving
train is found, near death, next to the tracks.  After he recovers
he claims to have amnesia.  Fitz has to determine if he really has
a memory or not.  If he's not the killer, why did he jump from the
train, and who did kill the girl?

To Say I Love You:  Two young lovers kill a loan shark who
is pressuring them for money, only to find out that murder is a great aphrodisiac. 
A very interesting episode that delves into the relationship between sex
and violence.

One Day a Lemming Will Fly: A young boy is found hanging in the
woods.  Soon afterwards, one of the boy's teachers attempts suicide. 
Could he have killed the boy, and if so why?  If not, what is he hiding,
and why try to kill himself?

Season Two:

To be a Somebody:  A Pakistani grocer is killed for no apparent
reason.  The police think the murder was racially motivated, but Fitz
isn't so sure.  The police spurn Fitz for another psychiatrist who
gives a standard profile that Eddie thinks is a bunch of hogwash. 
But when the new profiler turns up dead in his office, the police have
no choice but to turn to Fitz.

The Big Crunch:  A young girl is missing, and parents are
acting very strangely, so Detective Penhalligon asks Fitz to talk to them. 
When the girl eventually turns up naked with odd mystic symbols drawn all
over her body members of her church come under suspicion.  With the
small sect feeling persecuted, everyone keeps their mouths shut. 
Can Fitz find out what's behind their silence and make them open up?

Men Should Weep:  A serial rapist is lose on the streets
and everyone is feeling scared.  Fitz appears on a radio talk show,
which the rapist hears.  But what he hears convinces him to escalate
his attacks.  Can Fitz 'crack' this personality before someone close
to him is hurt?

Season 3:

Brotherly Love: A man is arrested for killing a prostitute after
she threatens to tell the client's wife of the affair.  Fritz is sure
he's guilty, but when another hooker ends up dead apparently killed by
the same killer, the rest of the force isn't so sure.

Best Boys: A runaway from a foster home and a factory worker
start committing a string of violent crimes.

True Romance: In the best story of the season, a female lab tech
who works at the same university as Fritz develops a crush on him and starts
sending him anonymous love letters.  She also comes up with a fool-proof
plan to get his attention:  she starts killing people.

TV Movie (1996) - White Ghost:  Lecturing in Hong
Kong Fritz stumbles upon a mystery.  When a near bankrupt businessman
discovers that his girlfriend is planning on having an abortion, he kills
the doctor and imprisons the girl planning on holding her until she gives
birth.

This first TV movie didn't have the appeal of the original series. 
All of the supporting characters (save one) are missing and it feels like
a lesser production because of it.  While it's not bad (we have to
wait for the next movie for that) and worth watching, it's a minor piece.

TV Movie (2006) - New Terror:  After spending several
years in Australia, Fritz has come back to England for his daughter's marriage. 
He's bored just sitting around, so when he hears that an American comic
has been killed for apparently no reason, he offers his services to the
Manchester Police.  The only problem is that the murderer isn't your
typical killer, he's an ex-soldier troubled by the things he's seen and
done in Northern Ireland and a current police officer assigned to investigating
the murder that he committed.

This was pretty near unwatchable.  It has all the hallmarks of
a great episode except for one thing: writer Jimmy McGovern (who created
the show and penned the best show's first two seasons) decided to use this
film to make a political statement and he does it without finesse but with
all the subtlety of a flying mallet. The basic message of the show is that
the US didn't care about terrorism until 9/11 and afterwards it only made
things worse with its arrogant cowboy attitude and the naïve way they
lashed out after the attacks. This movie is nothing more than a political
statement bashing the US.  It is Cracker-lite whose raison
d'être is to grind a political axe.  There was so much chest-beating
that the story gets lost somewhere in the midst of it all. Even Robbie
Coltrane seems to be more of a supporting character.


The DVD:





Audio:

The audio is presented in Dolby surround sound.  The rear channels
are not used very effectively.  Mainly for music and occasionally
background noise that is also present in the front speakers.  The
sound was fairly clean, though there was some background hiss noticeable
at very high levels.  This should not bother anyone viewing it at
regular levels.

Video:

Presented in full frame (what I assume to be its original aspect ratio,)
this image quality is similar the first season's.  The picture is
slightly blurry and indistinct, and the lines are not sharp.  The
colors are slightly muted also.  There are a few flecks and spots
throughout the three discs, but not many.  The dark scenes tend to
be a little grainy, and a little on the dark side.  Some details are
lost in dark corners.  Not a horrible looking set, just not stellar.

The Extras:

This set also includes a 45-minute featurette: Cracker: Behind the
Scene
s. This special interviews the cast (including Christopher Eccleston
who later go on to become the last Time Lord in the updated Doctor Who)
and creators of the show and looks at the casting, stories, and critical
acclaim the show has garnered. A very good overview of the program.

Final Thoughts:

Cracker is a great show.  The crimes and Fitz analysis
is still very interesting, and the supporting characters are still very
appealing.  If you enjoy intriguing character-driven drama it doesn't
get better than this.  Highly Recommended.

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