Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Heironymous Bosch, LAPD

Note: The following may contain spoilers about Amazon's TV series Bosch. As in the recent review of Daredevil, Bosch is going to be talked about like it's a TV series even though it was never actually on television but was originally available only via online connection.

Michael Connelly fans have long figured that his neo-noirish series featuring Los Angeles Police Department detective Heironymous "Harry" Bosch would make some pretty good television or movie moments. Matthew McConaughey's well-done turn as Connelly's lawyer character Mickey Haller in The Lincoln Lawyer gave that idea some momentum. When Amazon decided to get into the dramatic TV business, they rather understandably looked first at creating characters based on bestselling books. Two pilots were produced, with Amazon Prime users opining on which should get made. Bosch was released in February 2015, working three of Connelly's books into a 10-episode web series. A second series was ordered a month later.

Titus Welliver plays the detective, transformed from the Vietnam vet tunnel rat of the novels to a Gulf War veteran in his late 40s. Since that's the age Bosch was during the novels adapted for the series, producers decided to bring his history forward rather than use a retirement-aged Bosch as their centerpiece.

Welliver, a veteran character actor, brings the printed Bosch's cynicism and drive straight to the screen even if he does leave the frequently-described mustache behind. Harry Bosch is driven to solve crimes and see guilty people punished, partly because it's the right thing to do but also because of his own experiences as a crime victim and orphan during his childhood. But the byzantine regulations forced upon him by people who never have to face a criminal directly or encounter the aftermath of their work have given him a lot of bitterness to carry around. As well as a reputation as someone who doesn't always look to see if the corners being cut are legal or even ethical ways to corral perpetrators.

Bosch and his partner are working the discovery of a long-buried skeleton that resonates with the detective's past. He's also trying to work with a task force that's seeking the person responsible for a number of similar murders. The plots are from two different Connelly books, but their combination is effective, since it's more realistic that a police department might handle more than one case during a regular day. The mystery of the skeleton throws more things in the light than some people want, and the arrest of a suspect in the other murders doesn't clear up as much as it might seem at first.

Bosch is more procedural than mystery, as only one of the cases seems to present a question about the guilty party. It uses a jazzy soundtrack and a lot of night or interior shots to counter Los Angeles' eternal sunshine and give the series some of the noir flavor of Connelly's original creation. In addition to Welliver, Jaime Hector does good work as Bosch's partner Jerry Edgar, Lance Reddick skillfully shows the political gamesmanship that's at the core of Deputy Chief Irvin Irving and Jason Gedrick is a suitably creepy suspect at the center of the mess.

While it's good to know that Bosch will continue, the initial season was more of a long double than a home run -- it does a great job at realizing the world of Harry Bosch, but years of televised police procedurals and recent movie-quality premium cable series like True Detective make it a much more common animal than it might have been some time ago. There are a lot of brilliantly realized, atmospheric character-driven cop shows around to choose from now, and Bosch didn't do as much as it could have to set Harry and company apart from the pack. But it seems to have won enough fans for a second at-bat, so Harry, as always, got the job done.

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