Netflix 'Criminal' review: The dense police procedural is not like 'Unbelievable' but is just as smart and demands your undivided attention

There may be some out-of-context subplots that aren't really explained, but it's not something that stands out considering the rapt attention that the interrogation part demands


                            Netflix 'Criminal' review: The dense police procedural is not like 'Unbelievable' but is just as smart and demands your undivided attention

Netflix's 'Unbelievable' released to strong, positive acclaim. A one-of-a-kind crime drama that's intriguing and gripping. 'Unbelievable' is a  dramatization of the 2008–2011 Washington and Colorado serial rape cases, and follows "Marie, a teenager who was charged with lying about having been raped, and the two detectives who followed a twisting path to arrive at the truth. The program draws from reporting by T. Christian Miller and Ken Armstrong for ProPublica and The Marshall Project, later published as a non-fiction book A False Report.

Soon after, Netflix followed it up with a police procedural drama, 'Criminal' that made headlines for casting David Tennant and Hayley Atwell as part of the drama. The show's premise is pretty distinct— a 12-episode anthology series split across four countries, UK, France, Germany, and Spain. Each episode sees detectives and a suspect in the confines of an interrogation room. It does go a tad over the top, but in the end, is a series that evokes the same intrigue factor as 'Unbelievable'.  The episodes are brave, ambitious and utterly compelling. 

'Criminal' has its highs and lows. The method in which it's staged deserves plaudits. There's not much change in the views. It's either the police building or the view of the city from the hallway. Unexpected turns add to the list of "Why-is-Criminal-worth-it?" It's these unexpected twists by suspects that crank up the tension. 

'Criminal' asks for undivided attention, and if you aren't paying attention, odds are that you will find the series repetitive. The series also gives limited time with the suspects, meaning there's less room too for the audience to sit back, think about the suspect and have a thought to check if that person is really guilty. Personally, it feels like an extended version of 'Law and Order'. So far the episodes have encompassed topics that go beyond the usual— there's gender, race, and politics.

Tennant in a still from 'Criminal' (IMDb)

There's no popcorn element attached with 'Criminal'. There may be some out-of-context subplots that aren't really explained, but it's not something that stands out considering the rapt attention that the interrogation part demands. It's one of those shows that, like the suspects in the series, will make you stretch your legs and contemplate on continuing. Simply put, it's not binge-worthy.  The Germany block of the series is an absolute humdinger and our recommendation is to start off with it.

The pilot gives you the "Aw, s***t" moment after building enough crescendo and that sets the tone for the procedural drama. The cast too has names that are recognizable. Tennant, Atwell, Nathalie Baye, and Jérémie Renier are the known faces. That doesn't mean the rest of the cast haven't stood out. The actors roped in to play the suspects are probably the ones to watch out for as they do justice to keep the audience engaged. They may have the limelight on them for a good 45 minutes, but they do more than their bit to keep you hooked. 

'Criminal' is dense, smart and redefines the term "investigation". If you're one for minimalist dramas that keep you glued, then this one's for you. 

All 12-episodes of 'Criminal' will available to stream on Netflix on September 20. 

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