Crime Story: Season One (review)

After a blockbuster debut on NBC in 1986, this grim series wallowed in the ratings basement and was condemned for its unflattering portrayal of cops, its violence termed “X-rated” by one police organization. Today, its nihilistic attitude feels thoroughly modern, a stark vision of obsession and pursuit from executive producer Michael Mann (Collateral, Manhunter). A sprawling epic of cops and mobsters set in the early 1960s and radiating a dark, retro-wild cool, it pits Lieutenant Michael Torello, head of Chicago’s Major Crime Unit, against Ray Luca (Anthony Denison), a street thug with grand ambitions to mob management — a complex storyline with multiple tendrils takes them from the Windy City to Las Vegas as their game of criminal cat and mouse escalates viciously. Dennis Farina — Mann had, ironically, previously cast the former cop in his first acting role — is particularly intense as Torello, and Stephen Lang is mesmerizing as idealistic defense attorney David Abrams. Notable as a clear forerunner to the explosive, brutal drama of The Sopranos, the episodes here also feature an array of guest stars that would go on to greater things, including David Caruso, Ving Rhames, Lorraine Bracco, Gary Sinise, and Julia Roberts. The full-screen image is crisp and the sound, while apparently not remastered, is fine, but the DVD package, which includes the pilot plus the 20 episodes of the show’s first season, is bare bones, lacking any extras or commentary tracks.

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