Saturday, March 19, 2022

Before We Die, the English Remake

You could say DI Hannah Laing believes in tough love, but not “going by the book.” For instance, the two most important men in her life are Sean Hardacre, her married partner, whom she had been sleeping with, and her son, Christian Radic, whom she busted for drugs. His remarried father is Croatian, which will be significant when he lands a dishwashing job in a restaurant serving as a cover for a Croatian criminal clan. Family complicates everything in Matt Baker’s British adaptation of the Swedish series Before We Die, which premieres tomorrow on PBS.

Radic hasn’t been too keen to see his mom since his release, but he has kept in touch with Hardacre, who was something of father-figure to him. In fact, he volunteered to serve as Hardacre’s confidential source, when he began to suspect there was something funny about the Mimica family at the restaurant. He pretends not to understand Croatian, so he picks up plenty.

Unfortunately, Hardacre soon meets with an untimely demise. Unable to fully express her grief, Laing starts running her lover’s source, via his off-the-books phone, unaware that it is actually her son. She only confides the truth in her boss, DCI Tina Carter, and Billy Murdoch, who was loaned out to their organized crime task force, presumably from MI5. He is an ornery cuss, but that is why Laing trusts him. However, there is someone in the department who has been feeding intel to the Mimicas.

Perhaps the Swedish original is amazing, but as crime series goes, the British
Before We Die is competent, but nothing very special. Frankly, there is way too much mother-son melodramatic angst. Also, Radic’s “Romeo-and-Juliet” interest in Bianca Mimica, the innocent little sister of gang boss Davor Mimica usually feels more like a plot contrivance than a relationship. However, there are a couple of twists that represent real game-changers (they were probably utterly shocking in the Swedish series).

Still, Lesley Sharp is rock-solid as Laing and Vincent Regan is great fun to watch as the grizzled Murdoch. (This iteration of
Before We Die probably would have been more entertaining if it focused more on them working the case and less on Radic’s parental issues.) Plus, Toni Gojanovic and Kazia Pelka are reasonably chilling as the Mimica boss and matriarch, while Bill Ward has some nice scenes as the charming but ill-fated Hardacre.

There is nothing seriously deficient in
Before We Die. There just isn’t anything significantly special about it, especially since its premise and plotlines are admittedly based on a previous series. These days, there are plenty of new shows available that are better than just okay. Therefore, it is hard to recommended the six-episode commitment asked by Before We Die, when it starts tomorrow night (3/20) on PBS.