MSRP: $ 45.98
Release Date: October 13, 2009
Review Date: October 8, 2009
Take a crisis situation that often involves hostages or innocents being held at gunpoint, and you’ve got a job for the Strategic Response Unit (SRU) in the first season of the U.S.-Canadian (filmed in Toronto) co-production Flashpoint. An often gripping and sometimes even profoundly moving crime drama, the emphasis here is often on the heart rather than on firepower and strategic maneuvering. Add in a strong cast of interesting character types led by one of the most comforting and ingratiating of character actors, and you’ve got a well done drama which CBS first brought to the TV screen as a summer filler series and has since used as a utility player when other first-run dramas have fumbled the ratings ball. Flashpoint grows on you.
Enrico Colantoni stars as Sergeant Greg Parker, the negotiator at the head of the SRU. Team leader Ed Lane (Hugh Dillon) pretty much runs point in the various tense scenarios the SRU is given to handle. Also on the team are hotshot young rookie Sam Braddock (David Paetkau), coolheaded techie Mike “Spike” Scarlatti (Sergio Di Zio), reliable wingman Kevin “Wordy” Wordsworth (Michael Cram), and the team’s aggressive female member Jules Callaghan (Amy Jo Johnston). All are expert marksmen and are skilled at scaling buildings and repelling from great heights. With Greg’s firm but soothing command of negotiations between the police and the perpetrators with the weapons, situations might not always resolve themselves with everyone alive, but the satisfaction in knowing that everything was done that could have been done usually leaves each episode with a sedate sense of closure. A haunting ballad on the soundtrack usually plays out the episode with a reflective coda.
The episodes revolve around a reliable and rather welcome formula. We begin each program at the peak moment of climactic confrontation between the police and those they’re in communication with. The scene then goes back several hours to show us how circumstances occurred to bring us to the tense standoffs we are faced with at the beginning of the episode. From that point, anything can happen, and the resultant action usually leads to some quiet moments of discussion between one or more members of the squad. During this first season of episodes, there are standoffs involving marital disputes, wife beating, a heart for an organ transplant, drug deals gone bad, abducted children, ex-cons looking for justice, gang vengeance, even revenge. The actors are all solid players, but Enrico Colantoni, whose rock solid gentility has grounded many a film and television program, stands out as the team’s MVP. Hugh Dillon is also given several late season spotlight episodes and rises to the occasion each time, particularly in the season finale.
Here are the thirteen episodes which make up the first season contained on three discs:
1 – Scorpio
2 – First in Line
3 – Element of Surprise
4 – Asking for Flowers
5 – Who’s George?
6 – Attention Shoppers
7 – He Knows His Brother
8 – Never Kissed a Girl
9 – Planets Aligned
10 – Eagle Two
11 – Backwards Day
12 – Haunting the Barn (an emotional meltdown makes for the season's best episode)
13 – Between Heartbeats
The series is framed at 1.78:1 and is anamorphically enhanced for widescreen televisions. Color is a very strong component of these transfers (maybe a little too strong; greens sometimes look a bit electric), and sharpness in close-ups is usually impressive. There are some medium and long shot images which appear overly soft. There are occasional instances of edge enhancement, and moiré patterns and jaggies are also apparent but only sporadically. Black levels are very rich. Each episode has been divided into 6 or 7 chapters.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track makes good use of its available channels to filter music, gunfire, and other pertinent ambient sounds throughout. There are even occasional examples of directionalized dialog and effective pans through the soundfield when appropriate.
The audio commentary on the pilot episode by director David Frazee is not very interesting. The discussion is stop-and-go, and he doesn’t impart much information about casting decisions or other useful information one would want to know concerning the start-up of a new series.
“Flashpoint: Behind the Scenes of Season One” is a 7 ½-minute summary of the episodes for season one (many clips from the shows including some climactic moments which spoil outcomes) with the show’s creators, executive producers, and actors weighing in on their contributions to the season. It’s in nonanamorphic letterbox.
“The Human Cost of Heroism” is a 4-minute featurette with the show’s tactical team consultant discussing the show’s realism and attention to detail. Several of the major actors from the show are also interviewed.
There are trailers for CBS/Paramount series (NCIS, CSI, Dexter, Medium), Twin Peaks, and Jericho.
3.5/5 (not an average)
Flashpoint is an entertaining mix of action and personal drama that can touch the heart and bring one to the edge of his seat. The pilot episode is the weakest in the set, so one might be advised to give some of the other episodes a try if the first one is not to your liking. You might find yourself really enjoying this unique crime drama.