Sunday, 14 October 2018

Cardinal

This Canadian crime drama/thriller comes to us in the UK just now via the BBC and currently shows the first series (on the iPlayer) with the second, piece by piece (two so far) as it’s broadcast on BBC4 on a Saturday evening. The second series looks promising so far, but it’s the first I dwell on here. Not sure why it’s been relegated to BBC4, but I guess they have their reasons not to place it in prime position.

The first series is a dark drama set in the snows of Canada and features a couple of cops trying to track down a serial killer. Billy Campbell (The Killing, The 4400, Helix) plays the lead - and guess what - a cop with personal problems and a complicated history and home life! Fortunately the time spent on his background and home life ends up being intertwined into the plot to some degree, so is not a total filler. He plays the lead with a style of his own. I’m not really sure if I like his almost whispered delivery and purposefully gravelly voice, but I guess he was doing what he was told!

The star of the show though is certainly the French/Canadian actress Karine Vanasse (Midnight in Paris, Pan Am, Trench 11) who shines. She is very convincing in her role, rising from lowly cop’s assistant to a central pivot of the proceedings, both as an actor and in her role. She, too, is at times understated, but by now one is getting the impression that this really is a style thing!

The audience finds out about half way through the 6 episodes who the killer is, why he’s doing what he’s doing and who he currently has in his lair. This allows for the viewer to become a voyeur of the grizzly and dark nature of his activities, though delivery of his antics is never gratuitous. The level of exposure attempts to give us an insight into the mind of the killer, played by Brendan Fletcher (Freddy vs. Jason, Rampage, Air Bud). He plays it pretty dead-pan in a controlled way, which at first makes it feel unconvincing, but his facial expressions and dialogue with those around him reflect a dark interior which, again, has been embraced as a style.

The style is a lot of what this is about - think of Scandinavian thrillers, again set in isolated snowy situations - and to some degree this follows that lead. The storyline holds it together though and the sub-plots, instead of feeling like they’ve been bolted on to make it complicated and more interesting, actually serve to enhance the production and envelop the main thrust.

The photography couldn’t fail to be interesting, I guess, given the landscapes available, though I think it could have been made more stylish - in keeping with the genre - with more compelling focus effects and interior shooting being injected by the director, for example.

It’s certainly worthy of the time invested in watching and I am keen to watch the second series, which I have started. With Nextflix and Amazon Prime Video stuffed full with an awful lot of under-par offerings, it’s nice to find something which, though not earth-shattering, is a jolly good thriller.

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