(Kenneth Cranham, Ross Kemp, et al / 4-Disc DVD / NR / (1999) 2011 / Acorn Media)
Overview: The British crime drama 'Without Motive' ran for two seasons, with each season dedicated to catching one criminal. The show's first season shows the squad trying to hunt down a serial killer, while the second season sees them attempting to hunt down a supposed copycat killer.
DVD Verdict: As we all know by now, one of the UK's biggest exports is TV crime shows. Americans may bemoan their length, their gestation time in getting to the final hurdle of the investigation, but for the most part they love how the characters unfold - along with the great British scenery ie: Midsomer Murders!
But here in 'Without Motive,' which came to DVD in America on October 11th, we get a rare beast in that category - a short-lived TV series that boasts some great actors, a few decent ones, a famous-in-the-UK soap star, and a bunch of medicore OTT actors that grind the show to a halt long before the final whistle sounds each episode!
The series kicks off when a body is found alongside a canal in Bristol. And boy, is this initial acting and dialogue horrible to listen to, let alone watch! Seriously! Also, and from all the media on the series, it would seem as if Ross Kemp (the soap star, Eastenders) was the lead actor here - but far from it. Just one of a bunch, he gets more personal screen time later at home because his marriage is imploding under the pressure of his job!
The investigation into the girls death leads them back and forth to Wales (just up the road from them in real life), but the squad's Chief (Derek Henderson, played by Kenneth Cranham) is upset as he wanted it to be an open and shut case - for his desk! Two task forces then come together to catch the killer as it now seems likely he is guilty of killing three other women in Wales too!
In part two we move on 8 months for the search for the killer, but haven't arrested anyone yet. With all the facts on the table, late nights in front of old computers, old handwritten files is the order of the day for the squad. The storyline grinds to a halt here though as with the scene set, we watch as Jack's private life implodes! But, at the end another girl is found murdered and the Chief (played with incredible force by Cranham) has just about had enough - with everyone, including his own boss, ACC Stocks!
The opening 30 minutes of the third part go very slow, and all this episode does is reinforce their commitment to finding the suspect. The fourth part leads us now into Christmas. Jack now has a new female partner, his old one (the loud mouthed, but colorfully inspired) DC Boulter (Jamie Foreman) having now become the Chief's personal car driver). This is another run of the mill building episode, save for Jack and Margaret (his new partner) getting it on - as expected!
In the fifth part, we now move on 9 months and a new, well old skeletonized murder victim is uncovered. Then a new, fresh murder attempt happens and the squad is at sixes and sevens with each other. The woman survives but is on life support. Jack's affair comes out, he asks to be stood down from the case, Sally (his wife) then leaves Jack, and suddenly the one suspect they had questioned way back but let go seems the most likely, once again! In the final episode of this first season, after 20 months and no arrest, the Chief is asked to step down and resign - something he is firmly against doing. He asks for two more days to bring home the killer, is granted the extension, and sets out to bring the original suspect to justice - one way or another! (FYI - This has one monkey of a truly unsatisfying ending, trust me!)
We begin the second series with an intro that makes us aware that the suspected killer from the end of the last episode (Robert Jackson) is now, after a few months, going to trial. Charged with the murders of 6 women, he gets a clean cut guilty verdict from the jury foreman. Threatening to kill her, to knife her to death as he's led away, the squad celebrate the victory in the pub afterwards! But something about the arrest still doesn't sit right with Jack. And when a new slain body is found, the foreman (lady) of the jury, the squad have to rethink the whole thing - again! Jack is sleeping in the police digs alone, but is back working with Margaret again on the new case - professionally, this time, as she has someone new in her life.
In the second part, Jack and his Chief are up against the Crown Court for the way the case was previously handled AND the Civil Court - because of a claim by the husband of the last victim (that they had the suspect and then let him go before recapturing him - but not before he'd murdered his wife). The search for a new (possible) copycat killer is going nowhere fast, but there is one delicious scene where they park their car alongside a huge, beautiful hand-painted wall mural! In the third part, the squad find out that one of them is giving inside info to the Court re: the prosecution of Jack and his Chief. Jack is now having another affair with another cop, as you do, and an exciting end comes to the fore here, as one of their own is brutally murdered.
In the fourth part, we get a wicked, truly nuts and bolts autopsy scene on Margaret, before we find out more in-house secrets. Such as the Chiefs own boss, ACC Stocks (Ian Bartholomew) was having an affair with Margaret and was the last one to see her! Hence, a new ACC comes to the squad ready to shake it up and kick its collective asses! Lynn, Jack's latest cop squeeze now has a mental breakdown, but there seems to be more behind it than the death of her friend.
In the fifth episode, we come across new info that means the originally convicted and jailed suspect, Jackson is in fact 100% innocent - and so is released from jail. Suddenly, as the squad chat about who it could be, what suspects they have, they say something that CLEARLY RUBBERSTAMPS (to us) who the true killer is! Sure it takes them a while to get there (ie: the final episode) but we know it now - and are proven right come the episodes end. In, thankfully, as this has all gone on waaaaaay too long now, the final episode, the killer is targeting women involved with the case, or the wives/girlfriends of the male officers connected therein. When the killer is eventually trapped, the actual 'trapping' scene is very nicely done. A little Keystone Copsish, sure, but well executed and filmed. This is a Full Screen Presentation (1.66:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs, but does not come with any Special Features.