Crime Story [1986]

Though Hill Street Blues got all the awards and Miami Vice got all the attention, for some viewers it's the short-lived Crime Story (the second series produced by Vice's Michael Mann) that stands as tall as the great cop show of the 1980s. Set to a gritty rock & roll beat--with Del Shannon's "Runaway" providing the perfect theme song--the series chronicled the early '60s rise of gangster Ray Luca (Anthony John Dennison) and his hounding by hard-boiled policeman Michael Torrello (Denis Farina, who will never have another part this good). Save for the show's eventual relocation to Las Vegas, the Chicago-based pilot, expertly helmed by cult director Abel Ferrara, lines up all the elements that made Crime Story a classic: vivid performances, slick photography, brutal violence, and a genuine sense of the moral murk cops can be sucked into when they feel that any method is justified. Indeed, it's often Torrello, given to back-alley beatings and possessive stares at his wife (Darlanne Fleugel), who seems the scarier of the two leads; Luca kills without compunction, but with an assassin's dispassionate celerity. Such complexity, combined with the exciting action scenes, makes for wonderful viewing, however much it hurt with the Nielsen ratings. --Bruce Reid

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