Let this `Homicide' be your last

Critics' choice: Television

January 30, 2000|By David Zurawik

Stanley Bolander (Ned Beatty) is retired and living in St Michael's. Frank Pembleton (Andre Braugher) is teaching at a Jesuit college. And Tim Bayliss (Kyle Secor) is standing in a river fly-fishing while taking an extended leave from police work.

Those are the places that "Homicide: The Movie" finds some of our favorite detectives during its opening minutes.

I know it is early to start beating the drum, with the NBC movie not airing until Sunday, Feb. 13, but the screening cassette arrived one recent morning and, of course, I put the rest of the day on hold and raced to the VCR to see what executive producer Tom Fontana and his colleagues have done with the "Homicide" crew since last we met in May.

Is it worth marking your calendar? Definitely. It's not a great movie. It might not even be the best movie you will see in February. But there are three or four scenes at the end that are exquisite -- scenes that will break your heart with the memory of how great this series could be when it was on its game.

Not surprisingly, most of the best scenes involve Braugher; the screen just comes to life when he's on it. But Secor and Beatty are pretty fabulous, too. And the final scene is a great concept perfectly scripted by Fontana and his co-authors, James Yoshimura and Eric Overmyer. It not only provides closure, it brilliantly mirrors the way certain TV series live on in our memories.

I give nothing away (since it has already been reported here and elsewhere) in saying that the film starts with an assassination attempt on the life of Lt. Al Giardello (Yaphet Kotto) who is running for mayor. As Giardello fights for his life in the hospital, homicide detectives new and old gather to find the shooter.

But the film goes well beyond that story line to wrap up a number of the emotional threads left painfully dangling last May when NBC canceled the series.

Is it a fitting finale? I would love to see the franchise continue long after I'm off the beat, so that I'd never have to review the last installment of "Homicide." But it feels like a finale to me. I don't know how they could ever top the final scene.

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