a.k.a. "The Oscar Messenger"

French television viewers are really lucky judging by the excellent TV crime series I’ve been catching up with on MHz DVDs. First there was the excellent in every way “Maigret” series based on the Georges Simenon books and starring the late Bruno Cremer and set in Paris of the ’50s, and now comes “Blood on the Docks” another greatly entertaining, entirely contempo cop series based on British author Graham Hurley’s popular crime novels.

Hurley sets his Joe Faraday books in the port city of Portsmouth, but here for French TV’s “Blood on the Docs” they’ve been successfully transported to the sea-side city of Le Havre. Gritty, crime-ridden with nary a classic piece of French architecture in sight, Le Havre fascinates as a setting, because we haven’t seen it before. “Umbellas of Cherbourgh” this is not. It’s tough, anti-romantic, and hard-scrabble in the extreme. I kept thinking how this city must’ve been bombed to the ground in World War II and it’s STILL rebuilding its’ way back.

Huge cranes, ugly, massive tankers,and pile upon pile of those gigantic, metal, box-like containers that are used to transport just about everything these days, are not pretty to look at, but are the perfect backdrop of this gritty crime series.

Seagulls are heard crying from the first shots, and their unpleasant, shrill, yet somehow captivating calls are heard more often than music on the soundtrack.

Hurley’s Joe Faraday becomes Richard Faraday, here played by the dapper Jean-Marc Barr, who is completely bald, and HE’s supposed to be the sexy, handsome one, and he is and is seen sometimes completely, routinely nude, from the rear. His partner is the grizzled, funky, ex-hippie Paul Winckler played by Bruno Solo.(Winter in the English books). Together they form a very watchable crime-solving duo.

Faraday seems cold and very anal at first, but is made relatable in the touching scenes with his deaf-mute teenage son Lulu (Jean-Marc Hallegot) who wants to be a filmmaker! That’s a very French situation,IMHO, and of course, they are both single with not a woman in sight.
Leaving the door open for Faraday to have a series of different mistresses as the series wears on and there many casual bedroom scenes in varying degrees hot-ness.

The plots are intricate and violent, and often open each episode with a shocker. “Angels Crossing” or “Les Anges Brises” begins with a 15-year-old girl who has fallen to her death from a sixth-floor luxury condo. In “Blood and Honey” a decapitated young man’s body is found awash on a beach, and in “One Under” a screaming naked young man is spread-eagled on a commuter train track, and no, the train doesn’t stop.

You see “Blood on the Docks” grabs you instantly and doesn’t let you go! Each episode is 90 minutes or more and plays like a French film noir, rather than a TV cop procedural which is what this is.

I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that “Blood on the Docks” is extemely multi-cultural with Mata Gabin playing the stern unsmiling Madame Dardenne, Faraday and Winckler’s boss, who is Black. And she is a One-Woman War on Drugs and takes her business of cleaning up the narcotic-filled streets of Le Havre very, VERY seriously.

Relationships get complicated as it is revealed that Winkler’s childhood friend is today’s drug king-pin Bassa Swaty, who is sometimes his friend and sometimes his foe. The smooth smiling Emmanuel Salinger, plays both sides of the law’s fence with oily skill.

And a marvelously impish little black actor Samen Telesphore Tennou plays a homeless street urchin named “Doodie” who steals “Angels Passing” right out from everyone as easily as his character steals food from the supermarkets and drains gasoline from parked cars.

Edwin Baily has directed all four episodes I saw in Volume I with great cinematic indie-film flair. I can’t wait to see Volume II!

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