Spoiler Warning

Always assume Spoilers and possible profanity in context. These are often adult themed movies.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Black Rain

What About It?
(For a full summary of the film, scroll down to "What Happens?" below)

Black Rain is not a film that turns storytelling conventions on their ear. We've all seen buddy cop movies, compromised cop, and culture clash stories. We're not surprised the in this film the Eastern and Western philosophies each have something to offer the other. Mixing all of these tried and true stories together, however, has an interesting effect. Ridley Scott could've easily kept Michael Douglas' Nick Conklin in NY and examined him on the job while the pressure from Internal Affairs mounted. Nick is a very specific kind of cop. As is pointed out several times in the film, he's a "hero" cop. Based on what we learn about him, we can't argue with the IA Officer who doesn't like hero's because they feel "the rules don't apply." He's right in a way, but only up to a point.

Based on Conklin's actions, the criticism appears valid. He behaves as if rules concerning taking money off the top from drug dealers don't apply to him. It's quite obvious however, that he knows he broke the rules, and it bothers him. Conklin's frequent tirades against the "suits." and his rants about his fellow dirty officers "just trying to get by." have little to do with those officers and everything to do with him justifying his actions to himself. He excuses his actions by excusing those who did the same thing. He has financial pressures, kids to take care off, bills to pay, and the drug dealers wouldn't miss it. He only admits his guilt once, when Masahiri cuts through his evasions and asks him directly "Did you take money?" He then applies the excuses he gave for those officers to himself. At this point, Masahiri is not concerned, as he once was, with whether or not Nick is a dirty cop. He's concerned because by then he knows that Nick should be better than that.

It's also interesting that Nick tells Masahiri that Charlie didn't know he took money. Seeing the relationship between Charlie and Nick, it's likely that Charlie avoided ever asking him directly. He viewed Nick as a hero, a little rough around the edges, but was not ambivalent on the subject of stealing money. When Nick was ranting about Ronan, Charlie could admit that Ronan was a good cop, but did not see this as excusing his actions. He said "Just because Ronan was desperate and got tempted doesn't make him less wrong Nick." The cops taking money seems to be common knowledge, but they avoid talking about Nick's participation directly. Charlie admires Nick, and it would seem that he avoided asking a question he didn't want to know the answer to.

The dynamic between Nick and Charlie is a familiar one, each brings something to the partnership that the other doesn't have. Nick is aggressive and abrasive, while Charlie smooths things over. Charlie is impressed by Nick's straight shooting cowboy swagger. Nick appreciates Charlie's finesse. The partnership is an adaptable one too, and when Nick's aggression won't be smoothed, Charlie supports him fully. They're obviously good friends as well as partners. Nick can put aside his hatred of "the suits" and suggest Charlie use IA as a means to get ahead. Charlie's presence helps keep Nick from compromising himself even more. Andy Garcia plays him as optimistic and hopeful. Charlie clearly sees himself as one of the good guys, but he's not a Puritan about it. He attempts to see things in their best light, while Charlie can't help but see them at their worst. This quality, Nick realizes later, is what gets him killed. His willingness to play games with the Yakuza thugs, places him in the wrong place at the wrong time. "He should've known better." Nick laments, and he's right, but him not knowing better is what makes Charlie an endearing character. He's the pure, uncompromised cop of the two, and this is why it matters when Masahiri tells Nick that stealing disgraces Charlie's memory. Nick doesn't argue this, he knows it's true.

Watching Charlie, Nick and Masahiri interact is entertaining, and the three of them together is the ideal set up. Nick and Masahiri on the two extremes and Charlie serving as the buffer between them. Charlie very quickly takes a liking to Masahiri, making a point to remind Nick to try and keep him out of trouble with his boss. Their duet at the club is perhaps the lightest moment in the film and tells us a lot about both characters. Masahiri isn't as all business as he appears, and Charlie is a guy who genuinely likes people. It's also notable that the revelry would likely not have happened if Nick hadn't taken off to meet up with Joyce. Both Charlie and Masahiri are able to put Sato aside and have fun, while catching him is the only thing that Nick thinks about. This is likely what makes Nick a "hero" cop, and also a large reason why his life has spun out of his control.

Ken Takakura does a tremendous job as Masahiri, giving him enough complexity to keep him away from stereotype. He is quite firmly Japanese, and conscious of "the group," yet he can adapt and think outside the box when dealing with the American characters. His back and forth Japan vs. USA talk with Nick, is basically the two of them comparing stereotypes, although Masahiri's problem is deeper than "how Americans are now." He acknowledges that "you were wise then." which neatly mirrors the state of Nick Conklin, who undoubtedly started out strong only to get corrupted by dealing with the day to day pressures of life. Takakura is known as "Japan's Clint Eastwood." and he certainly holds his own against Douglas well enough. His reluctance to go along with Nick, doesn't diminish his effectiveness once he does commit himself. Nick gaining respect for him is a key element of the film, as both of his partners tell him essentially the same thing, that "theft is theft." His gift of the plates to Masahiri, hopefully indicates Nick adopting a fresh perspective.

Yusaku Matsuda is perfect as Sato, a villain who we sense is capable of anything. He isn't bothered by being a fish out of water. During his visit to America, he doesn't hesitate to butcher people. He'll do anything to get the respect he wants and seems to enjoy tormenting people, especially Nick and Sugai. Despite his youthful rashness, he is also willing to delay his gratification if he thinks it will pay off in a more satisfying way later. It isn't until the end of the movie, that he reveals to Nick that he can speak English, which tells us that his smirks during Nick and Charlie's plane conversation were due to him pegging Nick as a dirty cop. He is also willing to cut off his own finger in order to convince Sugai he's won, just so he can yank it away a moment later. Matsuda clearly put his best into the role and created a chilling and memorable villain here. During filming he knew that he was dying of bladder cancer, but kept it a secret although it made his condition worse. "This way, I will live forever." he reasoned, and hopefully he was right.

As we'd expect from Ridley Scott, who gave us Alien and Blade Runner, the experience of the film owes a lot to its environment. Set in Osaka, which was devastated in World War II, producing stories such as the "Black Rain" mentioned by Sugai, there is a haunted quality to it with massive commercialization built on top. The underground parking garages, labyrinthine open markets, and massive metal working factories, loom over Nick and Charlie. They can't get to their hotel, and they can't even talk to most people they run into. This is not the ideal situation in which to make enemies of the Yakuza, who know it all like the back of their hands. They are also forced to do it all without guns a fact which clearly unnerves them, being essential to American cops. Of course guns, aren't the real threat in this film, Sato and his crew prefer knives and swords, and they like to get flashy with them, as evidenced by Charlie's beheading. There are blades around every corner, while they are defenseless, another foreign element, and a brutal one. Even in America, Nick's gun is taken away when he fights with Sato, surrounded by meathooks in a slaughterhouse, he has to deal with Sato's blade, and the prospect of being suffocated with a plastic bag, foreign threats, not things he's used to dealing with. It's unfamiliarity with the environment that leaves Nick powerless when Charlie is killed, even though he can see every last detail. Add to the landscape the dark atmosphere and the persistent rain, and you get a bleak picture that mirrors the state of Nick's life. He and Charlie are "gaijin" and no one is interested in helping them. Osaka is oppressive, but not to the locals, they know how it all works.

Michael Douglas is perfect in this role, as a largely unsympathetic lead character. Nick is an effective character but not a likeable one, spending most of his time selling himself justifications that we already know he's too smart to accept. His main excuse for taking dirty money is a manufactured blue collar entitlement. He tells himself there's a war between he and those cops that bust their asses and "the suits." who, as it turns out, are justified in their actions towards him. The money obsession is the main uniting factor between east and west. When Sugai tells Nick (addressing him as a representative of America) "You made the rain black and shoved your values down our throats. We forgot who we were. You created Sato and the thousands like him. I'm paying you back." Nick can't really argue the point. He himself has sacrificed his integrity for the sake of a little money. He is not alone in this either. His dealings with IA tell us there are many cops under investigation, and Sugai's comment reveals that Sato is hardly alone in his fixation. In Japan however, Nick is exposed to a different way of thinking than he's used to.

The idea of honor/dishonor and obligation to a larger group as presented through Masahiri and even Charlie are able to sink in due to his strange surroundings and Masahiri exceeding his expectations. In Japan he has little support system and every vulnerability is magnified. This makes it easy for him to focus on finding Sato, and with the events that occur, to recognize his own failings. His interactions with the Japanese show him a side to being American that he hadn't really considered and his blue collar entitlement doesn't hold up to the scrutiny. He hates the "suits" yet Masahiri and Charlie, the two men he's closest to here, are constantly in suits, although they're lower on the totem pole than him. Nick's "cowboy" ethic also takes a beating as he is forced to rely on help from others. From the beginning, Nick is a dirty cop, although not a habitual one. He continually struggles to reconcile his wrongdoing with the idea of being a "good" cop. As demonstrated here, it took extraordinary circumstances to get him back on the right side of the line.

There are certainly some logic problems in the film. It doesn't make sense that Nick and Charlie would be sent to Japan, particularly when Nick is under investigation. It's also hard to believe that Sato's escape is effective, as you would assume the Japanese cops and airport security would've been on higher alert than to let Sato's gang pose as them and simply walk in and grab Sato, luckily choosing a different airplane door. Nonetheless, it's an exciting and gritty film, presenting a familiar dilemma, and several familiar plots in an exciting, and interesting way. The elements of the buddy cop film are split into two sets of partners giving both pairings an energy they wouldn't otherwise have had, particularly the Nick/Masahiri combination which is completely informed by the loss of Charlie. Certainly we're not spared any of the weight of that loss, Charlie's death, being one of the cruelest scenes in any film. From then on, Nick has no choice to realize that there are bigger things than money trouble and just doing your job. It doesn't aim to settle any East/West debate, but it does refresh the idea that regardless of what you need, wrong is still wrong.

What Happens?

The film opens with Officer Nick Conklin (Michael Douglas) on his motorcycle in plain clothes. He meets up with a group of other riders, remarking that another guy's new motorcycle looks fast. He suggests that they race for a $50.00 bet, which the other guy gladly accepts. They race through a hazardous construction zone, Nick decides to jump some obstacles, while the other motorcyclists wipes out trying to avoid them. After the other guy gets up, Nick asks for his $50.00, prompting the guy to say "You're a real fucking wacko. You know that?" Nick laughs and takes the money.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Top Ten Al Pacino Anti Heroes

Al Pacino is an actor who is often caricatured for his memorable expressions and his over the top delivery. What's remarkable about him is that he's created so many memorable characters that are impression worthy. It's hard to believe that the same man who played Michael Corleone, also played Tony Montana, and Sonny in Dog Day Afternoon. He's as likely to play a "good guy" as a "bad guy" most of his characters falling somewhere in between. We meet Michael Corleone, for example as a decent guy with a chip on his shoulder against his family's mafia activities, and watch as he becomes the most ruthless of them all. That amazing performance wouldn't be effective if we didn't believe both parts of the character. You can't imagine Corleone saying "Hooo-ah!" Pacino can disappear into a character like no one else, yet his characters always have his distinctive mark on them. It's remarkable that he's been acting since 1968 and is still putting out great performances. Here are my favorite ten of his anti hero performances, excluding Shakespeare (although he's a great Shylock too.)

10) Will Dormer, Insomnia

Will Dormer is a legendary police officer who is also under investigation by Internal Affairs. He and his partner Hap (Martin Donovan) are sent to Alaska to help track down a murderer. Hap discusses cutting a deal with IA, which angers Dormer. They investigate the Alaskan murder as Dormer realizes that there's daylight all the time, and finds himself unable to sleep. His partner is shot and only Will knows the true circumstances, although he blames the killer they're pursuing. Local cop, Ellie Burr (Hillary Swank) a big fan of Dormer's looks into Hap's death. Dormer finds the Alaskan killer, Walter Finch (Robin Williams) although  Walter knows a few things that make it difficult for Dormer to arrest him.
"You don't get it do you Finch? You're my job. You're what I'm paid to do. You're about as mysterious to me as a blocked toilet is to a fucking plumber. Reasons for doing what you did? Who gives a fuck?"

9) Sonny, Dog Day Afternoon

Sonny decides to rob a bank, as it's the only way he can pay for his male lover's sex change operation. Assisted by his friend Sal, (John Cazale) they find the robbery goes very easily with no one putting up much resistance. Unfortunately, he picked a bad time to rob the bank as it has little money on hand. The police soon respond and Sonny's efforts turn to survival and attempting an escape for himself and Sal. Negotiating with the police camped outside, even taunting them at times, he attempts to find some way out as he comes to realize he doesn't have a lot of options.
"No, I don't want to be paid, I don't need to be paid. Look, I'm here with my partner and nine other people, see. And we're dying, man. You know? You're going to see our brains on the sidewalk, they're going to spill our guts out. Now are you going to show that on television? Have all your housewives look at that? Instead of As The World Turns? I mean what do you got for me? I want something for that."

8) Steve Burns, Cruising

Steve Burns is a cop tracking down a brutal serial killer who targets gay men in the underground New York  S & M club subculture, using S & M related methods to dispatch his victims. Burns goes undercover in the community with the intent of acting as bait. As this is a William Friedkin film you know it won't be that easy. The assignment gets to Burns more than he imagined it would, leaving him deeply changed in many ways. The film is an interesting portrait of a time period and strives for authentic detail. This is not a film about a
good guy chasing a bad guy as much as it's about some people being poorly suited for undercover work.
"What I'm doing is affecting me."

7) Lefty Ruggiero, Donnie Brasco

Lefty Ruggiero is a mobster targeted by Joey Pistone, (Johnny Depp) an undercover cop using the name "Donnie Brasco" Donnie's strategy is to befriend Lefty to infiltrate the family he works for, what he doesn't count on is forming a real friendship with Lefty, which is certainly mutual as we see Lefty risk his life for Donnie. Lefty educates Donnie on all the ins and outs of Mob life, including the lingo. He says "If I say you're a friend of mine, that means you're connected. If I say you're a friend of ours, that means you're a made guy." He also explains that by vouching for Donnie, he's agreeing to take the blame for anything Donnie does. This turns out to mean a great deal, and we explore whether or not friendship is stronger than the cop/criminal divide.
"How many times have I had you in my house? If you're a rat, then I'm the biggest mutt in the history of the Mafia."

6) Carlito Brigante, Carlito's Way

Carlito Brigante gets out of prison determined to go straight. The only problem is that no one wants to let him. His lawyer and friend, Kleinfeld (Sean Penn) and a thug named Benny Blanco (John Leguizamo) are especially instrumental in making his reformation difficult. Seen by some as a sort of removed sequel to Scarface (If Tony Montana got thirty years in prison he might be Carlito) it's interesting that despite many similarities to Tony Montana, Carlito is also very different. He really wants to go straight but he can't erase everything he was, every friendship or association. Whether he likes it or not, there are some things more important to Carlito than reforming, still it's nice to watch him try while hoping he can do it.
"There is a line you cross, you don't never come back from. Point of no return. Dave crossed it. I'm here with him. That's means I am going along for the ride. The whole ride. All the way to the end of the line, wherever that is."

5) John Milton, The Devil's Advocate

Pacino might not be your first pick as the Devil, (going by John Milton here,) but after seeing his performance here, I was amazed that it hadn't happened before. Pacino himself suggested that Robert Redford or Sean Connery play the part. Milton is intent on bringing his son, Kevin Lomax (Keanu Reeves) into the family business. Kevin, an exceptional defense attorney, however, knows nothing about his father. Milton offers him an amazing job, and gradually reveals what's going on behind the curtain. Kevin resists but the battle is not as easy as he thinks.
"Don't get too cocky my boy. No matter how good you are don't ever let them see you coming. That's the gaffe my friend. You gotta keep yourself small. Innocuous. Be the little guy. You know, the nerd, the leper, shit-kickin' surfer. Look at me. Underestimated from day one. You'd never think I was a master of the universe, now would ya? "

4) Frank Serpico, Serpico
You might think that being an honest cop doesn't make you an anti hero, and ideally you'd be right. However, when the police force expects you to be corrupt, it's a whole different story. and you're working against the system, not for it. Frank Serpico refuses to go along with the corrupt practices of his police department, and gets no support at all, even when appealing to the highest authorities. Insisting on living life his own way, doesn't make Serpico any friends. His insistence on sticking to his own code gets him shot in the face and costs him everything of value in his life, including the country he lives in.
"What's this for? For bein' an honest cop? Hmm? Or for being stupid enough to get shot in the face? You tell them that they can shove it."

3) Lt. Vincent Hanna, Heat
Lt. Vincent Hanna ends up chasing a professional thief, Neil McCauley (Robert DeNiro) a super competent heist crew. Hanna is is dedicated to being a cop as McCauley is to making money, and aside from their professions the two have much in common. McCauley lives by the philosophy of never having anything you can't leave behind. Hanna seems to live by that too, although perhaps not as intentionally. He sacrifices everything in his personal life for the sake of his job. McCauley falters in his committment to this ideal, giving Hanna an opportunity to close in. Even so, the outcome is never certain as McCauley is a tough adversary. Featuring one of the best stand offs around, Heat is mesmerizing from start to finish. Michael Mann is the perfect director to give Pacino and DeNiro the perfect film to appear together, both at their very best.
"Oh, I see, what I should do is, come home and say "Hi honey! Guess what? I walked into this house today, where this junkie asshole just fried his baby in a microwave, because it was crying too loud. So let me share that with you. Come on, let's share that, and in sharing it, we'll somehow, er, cathartically dispel all that heinous shit". Right?"

2) Tony Montana, Scarface

Tony Montana is a force of nature. Starting out in a Cuban refugee camp, he won't be stopped from living his own American dream. His instincts and ruthlessness make it pretty easy for him to elevate himself quickly but the steps never satisfy him. Even after he's deposed his former boss, taken his wife, and established his own direct supply of drugs, Tony wants more. His rapid climb makes him many enemies of course, and even his "friends" are afraid of him. Tony needs help from his Colombian associates to stay out of prison, but he refuses to play by their rules, flagrantly ruining a job they need done and killing the boss's right hand man. Tony is a remarkably tough guy to kill but it's only a matter of time before someone makes the required effort.
"What you lookin' at? You all a bunch of fuckin' assholes. You know why? You don't have the guts to be what you wanna be? You need people like me. You need people like me so you can point your fuckin' fingers and say, "That's the bad guy." So... what that make you? Good? You're not good. You just know how to hide, how to lie. Me, I don't have that problem. Me, I always tell the truth. Even when I lie. So say good night to the bad guy! Come on. The last time you gonna see a bad guy like this again, let me tell you."

1) Michael Corleone, The Godfather

Michael Corleone wants nothing to do with the "family business." He's happy to promise his girlfriend he's not like "them" at all, and he even believes it. But he does have to look out for his father, which gets him tangled up in the affairs of the "five families." He starts off reluctantly but it eventually becomes all too clear that he's not unlike his family at all, and may even be the worst of them. Hailed by many as one of the greatest films of all time, and for good reason. Its full of subtle brilliance in acting, script, and direction and Michael's journey from resistor to the crime throne seems the most natural, if tragic thing in the world.
"That's my family Kay, that's not me."

Monday, June 4, 2012

Wire In The Blood

Wire In the Blood is a show I recommend to just about everybody who mentions TV crime shows to me. There are certainly a lot of them to choose from at any given moment, with any desired focus, from forensics, to detective work. Wire In the Blood is centered around a clinical psychologist, Dr. Tony Hill (Robson Green) as he assists The Bradfield Police in locating and arresting serial killers. Based on the novels and characters of Val McDermid, there's nothing else quite like it. At the moment all six seasons are available on Netflix Instant, so certainly check it out.

The typical episode set up is that based on crime scenes, which typically consist of discovered bodies left in gruesome display, Tony develops a profile of the killer by drawing conclusions from where the bodies are left, how they've been treated, and who the victims themselves are. Was it sexual? Were they dropped to the ground or placed precisely? Were they beaten? What are they wearing? Was it public or hidden? All of these factors and more bring him closer to the killer and a step closer to solving an unsolvable case. Tony is not Sherlock Holmes drawing brilliant deductions from seemingly unnoticeable details, simply a brilliant man who pays close attention and has special insight into the significance of certain actions, knowing for example that painting the fingernails of a victim, says a lot about the killer's intentions. He's not infallible either, and in a realistic touch, we see that his profiles change as more information becomes available. He's not a profiler, he would insist, but a psychologist which is a far more complex thing.

Tony's brilliance is established time and again, yet most on the Police force remain skeptical  of his talents, not believing that he can glean so much from seemingly insignificant details, and perhaps feeling that his involvement trivializes the department itself. Initially, Tony is sought out by Detective Inspector Carol Jordan (Hermione Norris) as a last resort. The two develop a close rapport after successfully solving several cases together.  We see that Tony is not your average psychologist and as he digs for information to profile killers we see him mentally putting himself in the shoes of both the victims and killers. It's clear that Dr. Hill understands these disturbed individuals far more than he would like to. Tony has his own eccentricities and like the killers he profiles, is damaged from his own abusive childhood and putting himself in the shoes of killer and victim certainly takes its toll on him. He suffers from dyspraxia (problems with motor skills and motion planning) and has poor social skills. He has to be reminded to do such simple things as get into a car before it can leave and misses the significance of "going out to dinner." Dr. Hill spends most of his off time playing video games, as forming relationships is far more difficult for him than profiling killers.

The cases he works on add to his difficulties, a reminder of much he has in common with his subjects. From the beginning, we see that Tony acts as psychologist to the killers he helps apprehend after they're locked up, and seems to display a very real desire to help them, although he has no illusions of false rehabilitation. On the other hand he has a very strict moral code and values the lives of others highly, often being outraged at those who would callously take it (including the life of a killer.) To Tony, catching these killers is an important contribution to the world. There is always a reason that these killers act, and their focus lies very often in childhood. Tony wants to understand it all, perhaps in an effort to understand himself. Dr. Hill is not out to kick ass, but to solve a problem. This would seem to paint a picture of a naive character, but quite to the contrary, he's not surprised when the worst comes to pass as it most often does. He looks at the worst of humanity every day; child killers, sexual predator, cannibals, among many others.

The interplay between Tony and D.I. Carol Jordan is fascinating to watch. They move from a professional relationship to friendship fairly quickly, and there's a sense of wanting to take things further, but relationships prove difficult, as missed cues and standard social conventions are not easy for him to negotiate. Carol is an extremely competent detective and in command of her job. This isn't a damsel in distress set up as it's every bit as likely that Tony will be the one in jeopardy and Carol will be doing the saving. Hermione Norris is very convincing in the role.

She's replaced in Season 4 by Detective Inspector Alex Fielding (Simone Lahbib) who is also a very competent detective, although her life is a bit more chaotic. She also becomes friends with Tony and while they seem more comfortable with friendship than Tony and Carol, romantic leanings come up there as well. Tony also enjoys spending time with Alex's young son, Ben, relating to him almost as a peer in a way. Like Carol, she's a very competent counterpoint to Dr. Hill.

They're assisted by others in the Department, including DS Kevin Geoffries (Mark Letheren) a good cop who has a habit of making shortsighted mistakes and DS Paula McIntyre (Emma Handy) a reliable policewoman. They change Department heads several times in the show, although most often, the current ACC (Assistant Chief Constable) has little appreciation for Tony's assistance. Of course the killers are are a pivotal part of the show and the different actors work hard to add the damage and suspense required to make Tony work. In particular, Maggie Thomas (Elaine Claxton) the first killer in the series, a child murderer Tony has caught before the show begins and conducts therapy sessions with while working other cases. Her character gives us a great portrait of extreme mental illness. It also reveals much about Dr. Hill, showing the lengths he'll go to discover where Maggie has buried her victims. Dr. Michael Bryant (Jolyon Baker) is stunning as the last killer of the series, and as close as we come to an arch enemy. As much as law enforcement is skeptical of Dr. Hill's help, they are over eager to accept that a true monster has been quickly rehabilitated, giving Tony the chance for an "I told you so." that he would much rather have avoided.

All in all, this is a series about figuring out the intricacies of a killer's psychology and then acting on the information to save lives. Unlike many of these shows, perhaps in part because it's a BBC series, and certainly due to smart writing, every case does not lead to a shoot out. It's refreshing to see these scenarios solved with the brain rather than a gun every time. Tony Hill is a very unlikely resource, yet always a supremely effective one. While many with Tony's problems would have difficulty functioning, he manages to keep going forward, making a real difference besides.

Wire in the Blood manages to be entertaining on many levels. Whether watching Tony try to negotiate a social gathering to save his job, or trying to determine if they're looking for one or two killers, it doesn't lose your attention for a moment. It doesn't coast on the writing either, the show has very competent directors, who keep a very strong visual sense, dark and well suited to the material, with occasional illustrations of worlds that could only exist in the mind. And of course, the acting is all top much, Robson Greene's Tony Hill is one of the best examples anywhere of an actor completely becoming the character he plays. The show is full of well drawn characters. My only complaint is that they're not making any more episodes.