Magazine article Variety

American Crime

Magazine article Variety

American Crime

Article excerpt

TV REVIEW

American Crime

SERIES; ABC, Thurs. March 5,10 p.m,

WRITER; John Ridley

STARRING: Felicity Huffman, Timothy Hutton, W. Earl Brown, Richard Cabral

Already described as a broadcast-TV stab at doing a prestige-cable series, "American Crime" is produced with a stark sense of realism, from the unglamorous look of the actors to the near-absence of music. Telling the story from multiple perspectives, a la "Crash," intersecting around a murder, writer-director John Ridley ("12 Years a Slave") works to challenge perceptions and preconceived notions, as the evolving facts of the case sweep up the characters, but seldom shake their prejudices and convictions. This is, in any venue, ambitious storytelling, although the rarefied air it inhabits could wind up thinning the ratings as well.

Certainly, marketing a series this downbeat and low-key - with uncomfortable issues about race woven into the fabric - asks a lot of an audience that's been marinating in the bombast of Shonda Rhimes' melodramas, with lead-in "Scandal" growing loopier by the moment.

Ridley (who wrote the first three episodes, and directed the first couple) also drills deep into the anguish of those involved, trusting his topnotch cast to sell the emotion with looks and glances more than histrionics.

The premise sounds simple enough: A man is murdered and his wife seriously injured and, we're told initially, sexually assaulted. The news comes as a devastating jolt to his estranged parents: Russ (Timothy Hutton), who is the first to be notified, and Barb (Felicity Huffman), who is almost immediately hell-bent on securing justice for her son, to the point of blind retribution.

The investigation quickly centers on an African-American junkie, Carter (Elvis Nolasco), who is trying to support his equally strung-out girlfriend (Caitlin Gerard). But the plot implicates others, among them a naive Hispanic youth (Johnny Ortiz) who might have become unwittingly involved, much to the surprise of his overprotective father (Benito Martinez).

Finally, there are the parents (W. Earl Brown, Penelope Miller) of the wounded woman, who each respond differently to the tragedy; and Carter's sister Aliyah (Regina King), a Muslim woman whose attempts to assist her brother inject an additional note of tension (and dramatically speaking, another hot-button issue) into the story. …

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