Investigating What Went Wrong
Miami Police detective Malcolm Ainslie (Tom Berenger) and partner Cynthia Ernst (Annabeth Gish) are investigating a series of homicides which appear to be connected via a religious aspect. It is something which falls into Ainslie's area of expertise having previously been a priest before turning to the law. But Ainslie has marital issues to contend with as well as he is separated from his wife Karen (Cybill Shepherd) and is living with Cynthia despite going through marriage counselling. To make matters more complicated is that Cynthia's father, councilman Max Ernst (Charles Durning), not only disapproves of their affair but as a former Police Chief has enough pull to arrange for Cynthia to get a promotion and transferred to another department. Eventually they get the killer and he is sentenced to execution but just before he is due to be executed he speaks to Ainslie and whilst admitting to most of the murders claims one was not his doing. As Ainslie ponders what he says and looks over the case files he realises there was a slight difference and that they have a copy cat killer on their hands as well.
I will say one thing for "Detective", also known as "Arthur Hailey's Detective"; it certainly has a lot going on. Unfortunately what I will also say is that all it ends up is an elaborate crime, drama but one which sadly struggles to keep you gripped by what is going on. It is a case that during the first half it seems to go around the houses, setting up subplots which seem completely unconnected. We have Ainslie's family situation, the interfering of Max Ernst in Cynthia's life and career and some other stuff with the actual detective work surrounding a bible spouting serial killer at times feeling like it is unimportant. You can see what it is trying to do, such as suggesting that Ainslie's job and the weight of the cases he worked was too much for his wife Karen to cope with but in truth you don't want that, you want the actual serial killer story.
Eventually it does set things in motion with a murder, the conviction, the confession and the twist of sorts as Ainslie discovers they didn't have just one serial killer but a copy cat on their hands. This in fairness is where it gets more interesting but you do wonder why we needed such a detour to get there in the first place. Needless to say "Detective" is one of those movies where everything which is served up to us is concluded in one way or another.
Now here is the sticky thing as "Detective" features a cast who I like from Tom Berenger and Annabeth Gish down to Cybill Shepherd and Charles Durning but the pace of this movie does no one any favours. Because it takes so many detours the characters seem to lack energy and whilst all of these detours are aimed at creating character depth it surprisingly fails. It sadly makes the performances all at one level and not interesting enough to sustain a movie, although originally a mini-series, which comes in close to the 180 minutes mark.
What this all boils down to is that "Detective" as a movie ends up flawed and ordinary with a storyline which seems to be filling time during the first half. I would imagine Arthur Hailey's book from which it is adapted is a very good read and makes more of these character back stories than this TV movie manages to achieve.