(Tom Conti, et al / 2-Disc DVD / NR / (2004) 2008 / Acorn Media)
Overview: Award-winning actor Tom Conti (Shirley Valentine; Reuben, Reuben) stars as Joe Donovan, an accomplished but troubled criminologist who returns from a mental breakdown to lead Manchester’s crack Forensic Investigations Unit. Called in to consult on a murder case that suspiciously resembles the one that drove him into near madness years ago, Donovan redeems his reputation and rediscovers his devotion to the job. Yet his professional dedication bleeds into his personal life, alienating his wife (Samantha Bond, Die Another Day, Tomorrow Never Dies) but appealing to his son (Ryan Cartwright, The Grimleys), who wants to follow in his father’s footsteps.
DVD Verdict: This British tv mini-series is a clear attempt to copy the success of the No. 1 hit US tv series CSI: Crime Scene Investigators and its various spinoffs and copycats. 'DNA' certainly starts out with a promising premise that immediately captivates, involving a former forensic investigator finding a crime scene set up exactly like a former case and then his own DNA planted at a scene and the realization that he is subject to a series of blackouts where he cannot be sure that he himself is not the killer.
It is directed with a cool style by Simon Delaney, who chooses a colour scheme that places the emphasis on predominating whites – the investigators in their cleansuits, the elegant creams of Tom Conti’s house. And of course there are two very good lead performances from Tom Conti and the greatly underrated British actress Samantha Bond, as well as fine support from a cast of largely unknowns.
Unfortunately, despite a great start, the series collapses into increasingly far-fetched improbability – planted DNA, fugue states where Tom Conti comes around in the midst of a murder scene and can’t sure if he did it or not, the son capturing crucial evidence on video, the wife having affairs with both the murder victims, a possibly innocent criminal from Conti’s past who may or may not be conducting the new killings out of revenge.
And about the point in the second episode [SPOILER ALERT] where it is all revealed to be the activity of a jealous detective who is planting the evidence to incriminate Tom Conti because he desires Samantha Bond for himself, the whole house of cards comes tumbling down. This revelation comes far too early in the story – it should have been a last minute twist. Moreover though, one can see just how contrived it all is as the moment this twist comes all the other red herrings – the wife’s affairs with the victims, Conti’s fugue states, the suspect from the past – drop off and are forgotten about.
But the improbabilities keep increasing – Tom Conti making a ridiculous return from the dead after seemingly being banged on the head and dumped in a reservoir, whereupon he and an assistant investigator then team up to taunt and implicate the guilty party by planting evidence.
Unfortunately plot devices like these, which belong to the classic psychological thriller, jar when introduced to the much more realistic form of the forensic thriller. The forensic thriller and its focus on the minutiae of evidence has made the improbably contorted plots of the psycho-thriller a thing of the past. By the end, when the killer is finally apprehended, the plot has becomes so contorted that it is absolutely certain that any case that might have emerged would have been thrown out of court – first of all the police have allowed a civilian to trample all over the crime scene, and secondly not one but three different forensic investigators have all been planting and falsifying evidence in order to implicate one another. This is a Full Screen Presentation (1.33:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.