A special guest contributor today: Sunday Star Times film critic Sarah Watt kindly agreed to review the new Ashley Judd action series Missing, airing Monday nights on TV One. For the record, I agree with everything she says. Thanks Sarah!
Despite the foreknowledge that this new TV series has been cancelled in the US after one season, Missing still seemed an attractive proposition for my Monday nights.
Following the trend of film actors making it big on telly, Ashley Judd takes the lead as a mom whose teenage son goes missing on his trip to Europe. I love Ashley Judd - her performance (and her hair!) in Heat, one of my all-time favourite films, means she can do no wrong. European locations? That's gotta be more exciting than fake New York sets or the real Baltimore. And our very own Cliff Curtis, long having shaken off his Uncle Bully reputation, has been playing Arabs, Afghans and Argentines in Hollywood movies for years now. Bring it!
Well in fact, I've given it three episodes (last week's pilot was a double-bill) and you can keep it.
Seen the Liam Neeson film Taken? Yep, so have I. Others loved it more than I did (enough to get the greenlight on a Taken 2) but even so, it was pretty cool watching Liam calling in his death threats from Notre Dame cathedral, and showing off his middle-aged fighting skills. It dealt with a gritty topic (sex-trafficking) and de-glamorised the Parisian locations while still giving us a sense of the exotic.
One has the sneaking suspicion that the producers of Missing may have seen Taken, too. They keep Ashley's secret for a wee while, but as soon as her Becca Winstone has broken into a Roman apartment and is grabbing a coat-hanger to ward off an attacker, we're thinking "Lady, you're going to need more than that to poke his eyes out," and then Boom! She's Jason Bourne meets Sharon Stone in Total Recall. Turns out Michael's mom isn't just a grieving widow who's over-protective of her only child, but an "I know how the real world works", blank-eyed, steely-jawed ex-CIA agent. And now they've made her angry.
My main objection, apart from the almost total lack of originality (so far, switching the gender of the protagonist is not enough) is that all the narrative happens way too fast. This is TV, for goodness' sake, and at this stage of the series' production they didn't know it was going to get canned. They've got more time than a feature-length movie to wrap it all up, so should be whetting our appetites and giving us a reason to tune in next week. Instead we're thrown on to a Contiki tour bus and hauled between European cities, let off only occasionally to use the loo while Cliff and his team of wannaBourne-hunters make unrealistic leaps in secret agenting (they got the local CCTV up how fast? Have you been to Italy?).
Well, while I'd lost interest in the "why has Michael been kidnapped?" thread by the end of the first episode, I admit I'm curious to see what happens with Sean Bean. There's no way you give a well-known actor second billing and blow him up for good in the opening scene. I only hope he's not just the subject of mawkish flashbacks, but instead faked his own death and is now either orchestrating a Missing Pieces moment with his son, or masterminding a terrorist plot. I'm still not tired of terrorist plots (bring back Homeland!).
But I'm disappointed in Ashley already. Her performance has gone very one-note in its hard-nosed, driven way. Plus, her relentless, Terminator-like capacity for action is just silly. (Am I being sexist? Is it OK when Daniel Craig self-defibrillates and speeds off in the Aston to save Eva Green?) I can't believe Becca uses the old tap-on-the-shoulder trick to jump an unsuspecting gunman, but also keeps all her passports and revolver in a bag anyone can find (and anyone does, when Mary the annoyingly needy BFF turns up and blows the gaff).
Granted, the production values are high - the scenery and locations are incredible, and the Amalfi Coast has never looked shinier. But jolty, "urgent" camerawork that was impressive 12 years ago when 24 came out now just adds to the frantic tone of something so underwritten it hopes we'll be too bamboozled to notice. There's too much to find annoying, and too little to keep my interest. Perhaps you'll just let me know if Sean comes back.
What do you think of Missing? And Ashley Judd? Do you agree with Sarah's take on it?
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