Friday, February 8, 2019

Pilot Review: The ABC Murders

The ABC Murders (Amazon)
Premiered February 1

I’m always ready to take notice of a project that involves John Malkovich, most recently seen in a surprising role as the judge in Ted Bundy’s case in “Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile” at Sundance and as a powerful Russian gangster in the third season of “Billions.” I remember some of his best work in films like “In the Line of Fire” and “Con Air,” and the TV show I best remember him in, “Crossbones,” was almost instantly forgettable. This series has a considerably stronger literary connection, adapting Agatha Christie’s famous novel, but, unfortunately, it’s just about as involving. It’s a dense premise predicated on a relationship between two people, the mysterious killer and the retired and disgraced inspector who tries to share what he’s been receiving with active authorities who won’t give him the time of day. This concept feels like it’s been done many times before, though it’s worth noting that the source material predates any cinematic adaptation of a mystery story that I would have seen. The cat-and-mouse game has been portrayed in many better ways since then, of course, and even if the book on which this is based was exciting, this presentation isn’t. Malkovich seems less than enthusiastic, and his energy level translates to the entire project. I didn’t even recognize Rupert Grint as Inspector Crome, and the only supporting player who I knew was Shirley Henderson from “Stan and Ollie” as Rose. I’m generally somewhat fond of crime mysteries, but this one just didn’t grab me.

How will it work as a series? Like so many British productions recently, this one runs just three episodes. I didn’t know that until after I had finished the opening installment, and I’m not sure whether that’s far too little time or already feels like too much. I suppose there’s some symmetry to be found in all three letters in the title earning an hour each?
How long will it last? Reviews are decent here in the United States, and the show seems to have gone over well during its initial airing on BBC One back in late December. The material should be completely covered, and therefore it’s just a question not only of similar fare being produced but more specifically Christie works being adapted in this form, which I imagine will be likely to happen.

Pilot grade: C

No comments: