Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Night Passage

Robert B. Parker is best known for his Spenser novels about a wiseass Boston P.I. which became a network show and then a series of television movies with Robert Urich and later Joe Mantegna. A few years ago Parker started deviating from his Spenser and broadened into characters and new worlds. One such world involves police officer Jesse Stone in the small New England vacation town called Paradise.

As the movie opens Los Angeles homicide detective Jesse Stone (Tom Selleck) is drunk and on his way out of town. He’s wife has been sleeping with another man, and he’s been kicked off the force for drinking on duty. He heads cross-country with his dog for a new job as police chief of Paradise, Massachusetts. Despite being drunk and hung-over at the interview he gets the job and slowly realizes why the town leader Hasty (Saul Rubinek) wants a slush for a police chief. Stone sobers up and goes to work on solving the murder of the last police chief (Mike Starr) and stopping the money laundering scheme involving Hasty and Joe Genest (Stephen Baldwin).

More of a character study than a mystery the movie takes a look at Stone as a shattered but not completely broken man still in love with the woman he has left behind and unwilling or unable to truly move on. Selleck is well cast in the role that allows him the full range of emotion over the course of the film.

The supporting cast includes Polly Shannon as a potential love interest, and Viola Davis and Kohl Sudduth as small town police officers. Starr is perfect as the aging police chief forced out after twenty years that meets a bitter end and any movie where Stephen Baldwin gets kicked in the crotch gets thumbs up in my book.

The movie is a fair representation of Parker’s novel with a few changes but his style works well in this type of format. Stone is more serious and straight-laced and although he doesn’t have Spenser’s charm he has a depth and vulnerability that works well on screen. This is the second movie Selleck has starred in and produced as Jesse Stone with at least one more to come. Hopefully Parker will keep writing and we’ll get many more adventures of Jesse Stone in Paradise.

A few years ago Selleck stepped away from the big budget Hollywood parts he was getting in some really bad movies (anyone remember Her Alibi?) and moved into producing and starring in smaller but much better made films, mostly for television. Jesse Stone is a good character for Selleck and opens new doors and stories for him to tell and hopefully we’ll get quite a few more.

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