'Zen: Vendetta Cabal Ratking'
(Rufus Sewell, Caterina Murino, Ben Miles, et al / 2-Disc DVD / NR / 2011 / BBC Home Video)
Overview: The three feature-length dramas in this collection originally aired on the BBC in England in 2011; all constitute adaptations of the popular Aurelio Zen novels by Michael Dibdin, and star Rufus Sewell as Zen - a seminal Italian detective who simultaneously investigates such crimes as abduction and homicide while trying to balance his work with an alluring romantic life.
DVD Verdict: 'Zen'(formerly called ‘Aurelio Zen’), a British TV series produced by Left Bank Pictures for the BBC (co-produced with WGBH Boston for its Masterpiece anthology series), is so fresh to DVD in the US that you can feel the heat of the pressing coursing off the case! In the old days to get a British TV show over here on DVD meant that you'd be watching something that aired on the BBC some 10+ years ago! Now, well, it's lightning fast as this new 'Zen' series was first shown on BBC TV in the UK January 2nd of this year ... and, sadly, come late February had already been canceled by said same company! (BBC One controller Danny Cohen later said there were "already enough male crime-fighters on TV"!).
Although, news just in says that the axed show has since been sold abroad to five countries, boosting hopes a new series could be picked up by another UK broadcaster. Indeed, 'Zen's demise has left some drama executives mystified as it was well-received by most critics in the UK, so I'm reliably told.
The series was filmed on location in Italy, but the dialogue is in English as are all the main character ie: all British. Much like the characters and actors in Wallander, all be it set in Sweden, they all had Swedish names and yet were all British actors! And my favorite part of this show are the opening credits. A right royal flashback to the old '70s British/Italian crime shows, the music (from composer Adrian Johnston) is 100% spot on perfect for this show - as are the opening credits. You could really see a young Michael Caine in this role!
In the first of the three 90 minute episodes, 'Vendetta,' Detective Zen is sent to a remote village to re-investigate a murder, which may spark a political scandal. Zen, a Venitian otherwise known as an Outsider or a Maverick to the Italians) is under pressure from the politicians and the Chief of Police (seemingly) in every episode!
Always fashionable in his black suit, white shirt, and thin black tie, Zen muddles his way through this slow burner, before come the final third of the episode things get really good! A hunt in a forest, an unintentional swim in an underground lake, a few guns pointed at his head and soon our hero has our full attention!
In the second episode, 'Cabal,' the death of a famous aristocrat, Umberto Ruspanti, leads Detective Zen into the shadowy world of the Cabal—an organisation - more powerful and secret than the Mafia. The Ministry want a quick verdict of suicide, as usual, but Zen's not so sure. Meanwhile, he would rather be spending time with Tania, the Chief's beautiful assistant.
Always quickly knocking back a shot of expresso wherever he is, and whenever he sits down to chat, Zen is faced with not only The Ministry wanting a quick result, but a big time lawyer and her politician friends! The word is the Cabal has decided to 'remove' one of its own from within its ranks, but not all is what it seems. Come the end, and Zen and Tania may well have moved forward and sorted some things out between themselves, but the plot points of the episode are rushed at the end - leaving more questions than answers for the viewer.
In 'Ratking,' the last and best (for my money episode, Zen works against the clock to recover the kidnapped Ruggerio Miletti, a wealthy industrialist with political ties. The involvement of the manipulative family and a beautiful grieving widow complicate matters. Meanwhile Tania's husband poses a serious threat to Zen and his soon-to-be ex wife after he discovers their relationship.
In this final episode a lot happens - the force gets a new chief, due to the previous one having a heart attack in the office, Zen and Tania reveal their love for one another, Zen's whiter than white ethics are brought into question, and come the end there are three (3) twists that come one after the other - and not one of them was expected! Oh, and as the episode is about to close, and the phone rings, we hear Zen answer with the words, "Chief Zen ..."! These are all Full Screen Presentations (1.33:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Feature of Zen: An Italian Adventure Featurette.