Without Motive: The Complete Series
Acorn Media // Unrated // $59.99 // October 11, 2011
Review by Randy Miller III | posted October 9, 2011
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Britain's Without Motive (2000-2002) wasn't the first series to examine a police officer's professional and personal lives simultaneously, but it certainly did the job well. This terrific import stars Ross Kemp (EastEnders) as Detective Constable Jack Mowbray, a likeable and headstrong cop who's managed to balance both lives until recently. A serial killer is at large and random women have been slain at irregular increments. The public is terrified, the local press is attacking the police for their lack of results and mounting stress from dead-end investigations is wearing down each and every cop involved.

Mowbray has a somewhat stilted relationship with his partner, DC Jim Boulter (Jamie Foreman, Layer Cake), who handles his responsibilities with a much more flippant and politically-minded attitude. Meanwhile, Mowbray's personal life is slowly crumbling around him: his wife, Sally (Hazel Ellerby, Peak Practice), has nagging doubts about her husband's abilities, which puts quite a strain on their marriage. If that weren't enough, Mowbray and Boulter's bull-headed boss, DCS Derek Henderson (Rome), is under intense scrutiny for his team's performance. He's also got to balance the police's image with members of the local press...and more often than not, his detectives get the short straw.

At just two series (seasons) and 12 episodes in total, Without Motive takes a few episodes to get going but takes off soon enough. Ross Kemp's performance anchors the series quite well, in the same way that Michael Chiklis would anchor The Shield roughly two years later. Though the two leads share a few obvious similarities, Kemp plays Mowbray in a more grounded and accessible manner. His character makes a few questionable decisions but remains likable almost every step of the way; in short, it's easy to see how job stress would lead him down certain paths. From Series 1's tale of the mysterious serial killer through Series 2's "copycat killer" follow-up, Without Motive remains gripping at just about every turn. In short, it's a perfectly good show that deserved a more global audience.

Without Motive has certainly been a mystery on DVD thus far. A quick scan of Amazon UK's site shows no results and the ever-reliable DVD Basen draws a blank too. So this Region 1 release may very well be the show's official DVD debut...and unfortunately, it's not a very strong one. Acorn's lackluster technical presentation is matched by a complete lack of bonus features and a puffed-up price tag. Don't get me wrong: the show's great, but a 12-episode run of an 11 year-old import is a tough sell at $60.

A NOTE TO NEW VIEWERS: Without Motive has the bad habit of including episode summaries on each sub-menu and previews before the end credits; both of these often contain spoilers, so be careful.

Quality Control Department

Video & Audio Quality

Presented in their original 1.78:1 aspect ratios and enhanced for 16x9 displays, these 12 episodes are definitely rough around the edges. Without Motive appears to have been shot on video; as such, the image isn't particularly sharp and shadow detail barely even registers. Additionally, the content has not been flagged correctly for progressive playback, so there's a modest amount of digital combing on display. Even so, this is a series that delves into murky, rough territory, so it's almost fitting that the DVD transfer isn't squeaky-clean. In any case, Without Motive is watchable despite the visual flaws.

The audio also doesn't aim very high, so the plain-wrap Dolby Digital 2.0 mix replicates this low-key production fairly well. Dialogue is generally clear and easy to understand...but if you're not used to British accents and slang, the optional English SDH subtitles will probably be of some use.

Menu Design, Presentation & Packaging

Seen above, the menus are simply designed and easy to navigate. Each 50-minute episode has been divided into roughly half a dozen chapters and selection sub-menus are present. These DVDs are dual-layered and the four-disc set is housed in a standard-width, hinged keepcase with a slipcover and promotional insert. It's a practical and efficient packaging job that doesn't hog much shelf space.

Bonus Features

Nothing...and considering it's taken 10 years to arrive on Region 1 DVD, this is a huge disappointment. A few audio commentaries or behind-the-scenes interviews would've been a nice touch.

Final Thoughts

Without Motive is a perfectly watchable 12-episode series that moves along at a good pace without overstaying its welcome. Fans of crime drama will undoubtedly enjoy this little-seen import, even though the series' Region 1 delay makes us feel a little late to the party. Unfortunately, Acorn Media's DVD package isn't particularly well-rounded: the technical presentation is rough around the edges and no bonus features have been included. For obvious reasons, the inflated price tag may scare off curious newcomers...so I'd recommend Without Motive as a solid rental candidate, if possible. Rent It.

Randy Miller III is an affable office monkey based in Harrisburg, PA. He also does freelance graphic design projects, teaches art classes at a local gallery and runs a website or two. He also enjoys slacking off, telling lame jokes and writing stuff in third person.

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