Fans of television crime shows will recognize in “Falcon” certain commonplace elements that put the Spanish homicide detective of the title squarely in the Phillip Marlow school of criminal investigation. To wit: he’s a slightly world-weary knight errant with drug/drinking issues, dark demons in his past, a determined doggedness for finding answers and a noble adherence to a private code of justice.
“Falcon” possesses all of those by-the-book characteristics, yet in the two-episode DVD set released by Acorn Media everything about the series, based on the crime novels of British writer Robert Wilson and airing originally on British TV, is a cut above the average television crime drama. That’s starting with the setting, the lovely old-world Andalusian city of Seville in the south of Spain, and the complex, deeply internalized sleuth of the title, brilliantly personified in the close-to-the-vest performance of darkly handsome New Zealander Marton Csokas.
Those, coupled with elaborate production values befitting a pair of glossy feature films, make this DVD package (two complete mysteries, presented in two 45-minute episodes each) a revelation for TV mystery fans.
The opening mystery, “The Blind Man of Seville,” is the strongest and introduces viewers to Javier Falcon, whom Csokas reveals in pithy bits and pieces. He’s a well-respected cop – the Inspector Jefe of the Seville homicide square – with one failed marriage but a healthy relationship with his sister. But, as we see in early scenes, he nurses a secret dependence on a white, powdery substance that he buys in back alleys. And he’s the son of a renowned artist, who left instructions upon his death that Falcon should destroy all the paintings left in his studio.
But as he opens an investigation into the ritualistic slaying of a wealthy restaurant owner and former friend of his father, Falcon comes across a startling picture of his late father among the dead man’s possessions. And that leads the way into an intricate mystery of deception and brutality involving the murdered man’s much younger wife (Hayley Atwell) and some dark family secrets from Falcon’s past.
The second mystery, “The Silent and the Damned,” focuses on a double suicide in a wealthy Seville neighborhood and some shady dealings between the CIA and the corrupt Pinochet regime in Chile. But the primary point of interest seems to be in fleshing out Falcon’s cool, calculated methods and his tragic emotional isolation that precludes any fulfilling human relationships. All in all, it’s a well crafted but far less compelling crime tale.
Still, “Falcon” (there are two more novels in Wilson’s crime series that hold the promise of adaptation) is a rare find indeed. Containing all the expected elements of the standard police procedural, it’s elevated above the norm by uncommonly sophisticated narratives, high-class production values and a magnificently nuanced and resonant performance by Csokas in the title role.
- Dennis King