Two Chilling Crime Dramas and a Fresh Take on Cinderella Story

By M. S. Mason of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, March 8, 2002 | Go to article overview

Two Chilling Crime Dramas and a Fresh Take on Cinderella Story


M. S. Mason of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


A truly grown-up thriller can be absolutely absorbing; it's like a minivacation from daily life.

The Whistle-Blower (BBC America, March 9, 8 p.m.-midnight, check local listings) is a timely and gripping adult drama. It's all about corporate coverups, political intrigue, and the flaws in the British (and American) witness-protection system.

After working at an important London bank for 15 years, Laura Tracey (Amanda Burton) discovers a major drug money-laundering operation going on in her own company. But when she blows the whistle, her own life is turned inside out - along with her husband's and children's lives.

Endangered by nasty drug lords and upper-crust bankers, her home life roils, and then the real trouble surfaces.

When the authorities discover a number of transgressions in her past (the bank execs supply details), they become suspicious. The only question none of the cops ever asks is, if she is lying, how come the hitmen are still trying to wipe out her family and do her in, too?

But then, their suspicions turn down another twist of the labyrinth. You just don't know what to think of Laura until the last few minutes of the film.

Issues of justice and courage run through this intelligent story, along with issues of responsibility and accountability balanced against what is best for the family. And even though writer Patrick Harbinson ("ER," "Dark Angel") exposes the nightmare of living in a witness-protection program, his deeper insight underscores individual responsibility for the state of the world - even when doing the right thing involves great sacrifice.

Another significant made-for-television film for grownups is Court TV's first original movie, Guilt by Association (March 13, 9- 11 p.m.). It's an unabashedly moral film that seeks to expose instances of grotesque injustices in mandatory minimum-sentencing.

Though meant to combat drug lords and take dealers off the street, these laws have been so badly written, say critics, as to punish most severely the innocent family members and friends of the guilty. Most of these victims are women - girlfriends, sisters, mothers - of the bad boys who deal. The story demonstrates how witch hunts are still with us, taking different guises as times change.

Mercedes Ruehl plays Susan, a widow with two children who falls in love with a man who appears to be perfect. When she discovers that he is a marijuana dealer, she kicks him out. She doesn't want drugs around her children. Too late.

She has taken phone messages for him and hosted a couple of parties where the women just talked and the men talked "business. …

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