Following the huge success of the original cult Danish crime series Forbrydelsen when it was finally screened on BBC Four earlier this year, fans were rightly suspicious of Veena Sud’s American remake.
The original 2007 series was a 20-episode epic following Detective Inspectors Sarah Lund (Sofie Gråbøl) and Jan Meyer (Søren Malling) as they undertook the complex, city-wide investigation into the murder 19-year-old Nanna Birk Larsen.
This remake transplants the action to an incredibly Scandinavian-looking Seattle and the investigation by Homicide cops Sarah Linden (Mireille Enos) and Stephen Holder (Joel Kinnaman) into who killed teenager Rosie Larsen.
A relatively faithful retelling (though perhaps oversimplifying) of the original’s plot sees Linden and Holder dealing with the victim’s family, investigating the school, offices of local politicians and potential crime scenes as an elaborate sequence of events is deftly put together.
The action is perfectly functional, with the gritty streets of Seattle (replicated in Vancouver) an inspired choice of location for the moody, intelligent drama to unfold. Again, the performances are competent, echoing the low-key turns by each actor’s Danish counterpart and you do feel some natural empathy toward Rosie’s family.
Now for the inevitable. It seems a little harsh to base any criticism of this admittedly quite enjoyable adaptation on its source material, though it’s unavoidable when the problems are reflections of exactly what is so damned great about Forbrydelsen.
Forbrydelsen succeeded not because of its embrace of conspiracy thriller staples, such as shifting allegiances, political corruption and cover-ups, or because of its stylish direction, using The Wire-style artistic shots turning the city into a canvas.
Forbrydelsen’s real strength was in the performances from its excellent cast. Though the US adaptation uses the same twists and turns to evoke an emotional response, unfortunately, Enos and Kinnaman are no Gråbøl and Malling, partly due to the irritating character quirks forced on Kinnaman as the younger cop and partly due to Enos’ dead-eyed blankness as the lead.
The odd exception, notably Brent Sexton as Stan Larsen – an equally likeable take on the original’s Theis Birk Larsen – stands out, though for the majority, the understated performances lack the depth and soulfulness you can feel with the Danish cast.
The effect of this is a minor disaster. A crime thriller that adopts the interesting idea of following the effect on the victim’s family and suspects’ private lives falls flat when you ultimately don’t really care about them.
For all the stylish, complicated narrative rollercoaster dynamics, the unfortunate result is that the viewer soon loses interest, particularly if they’ve seen the quality original series, like the more successful of two siblings showing up the flaws of the other.
Released on DVD on Monday 26th September 2011 by 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.
Watch the trailer…