Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Antigone 34: Anne Le Nen Takes Care of Business

Hard charging police captain Léa Hippolyte is not inclined to talk to the department’s resident psychologist, but she might be one of the few colleagues she can trust. Dr. Victor Carlier is a different story.  Hippolyte opens distrusts the ex-con, but she cannot ignore the suspicious circumstances surrounding his daughter’s murder.  It is a case Hippolyte will indirectly pursue throughout the French television series Antigone 34 (trailer here), which releases today on DVD from MHz networks.

Dr. Hélène de Soyère has just cleared Hippolyte to return to work following the suicide of her former partner.  It was an inexplicable tragedy her rival, the reptilian Perez, uses to undermine her standing among their colleagues.  Teaming up with the youthful Ravel, Hippolyte is called to the city’s medical college, where an attractive student has been killed in a hazing incident.  During the course of the official investigation, it is determined Mademoiselle Carlier was actually an inadvertent victim of a drug-related misadventure.  However, her recently released father turns up evidence of a wider conspiracy, involving the very same people who framed him for his wife’s murder.  Hippolyte is receptive to his claims, up to a point.

During the subsequent five episodes, Hippolyte works cases that are not directly related to the Carlier murders, but precipitate developments in the series-driving investigation.  Antigone 34 (sort of Montepellier’s equivalent of One Police Plaza) favors procedural grit over cleverly constructed mystery puzzles, but it is a well written show, deftly teasing out character development and revelations in the wider plot through the course of each episode’s casework.

The three cast members featured in the opening credits are all quite strong, but Anne Le Nen is truly the star.  A real life, fully certified Krav Maga instructor, she brings genuine street cred to her action scenes. Frankly, Antigone does not capitalize on her chops enough.  In the future, they ought to allow her to choreograph a few extended hand-to-hand sequences.  Regardless, her mature but sultry presence further distinguishes Antigone’s straight dramatic moments.

As the tightly wound Carlier, Bruno Todeschini (recognizable to some as Audrey Tatou’s inappropriate boss in Delicacy) broods quite nicely.  Of the primary trio, Claire Borotra probably gets the least to do episode-by-episode, but at least her de Soyère is convincingly smart and sensitive.  However, it is Bruno López who makes the strongest impression, following Le Nen.  If ever anyone just looked like a corrupt cop, it would be him.  As Perez, he serves as an effectively slimy foil to Hippolyte.

Although the DVD box says it is the “complete series,” mystery viewers will hope there is more Antigone 34 to come.  Episode six delivers some satisfaction for those who have invested in the Carlier case, but it is clear there is plenty of work left for Hippolyte.  It is a stylish series that capitalizes on the picturesque Montepellier locations, which are hardly over-exposed for American audiences. An entertaining showcase for the city and Le Nen, Antigone 34 is enthusiastically recommended for cop show fans when it releases today on DVD from MHz Networks, the international crime drama specialists.