He's on the trail of a killer…that leads directly to him.

Artisan is pretty big on made for television and straight to video stuff, and this is another of those. Partners in Crime is a whodunit with a television twist of combining the detective with his FBI agent ex-wife. Still, it is a cut above average for such fare and the story and performances are fairly tight. Artisan does a nice transfer and a barebones disc for a movie that ultimately didn't deserve much more.

Nobody is going to accuse Rutger Hauer of being a lightweight actor. Sure, his films have been pretty uneven in quality—from the glory of Blade Runner and Ladyhawke to the ignominy of Omega Doom and an assortment of other less notable films. I'd put Partners in Crime squarely in the middle between the two extremes of quality. Hauer plays his part with flair and professionalism, and even manages to lose most of his accent. His co-star Paulina Porizkova (Her Alibi, Female Perversions) is both less successful as an actress and in hiding her foreign accent. Still she puts in a pretty fair performance.

Here the two are forced together when a wealthy citizen is presumed kidnapped and Detective Reardon (Hauer) is the first local law enforcement to be handed the case. Being a kidnapping, of course the FBI is called in, and the special agent in charge just happens to be Wallis P. Longsworth, Reardon's ex-wife from 15 years ago. Expect the sharply edged banter of two people who were once married and still hold something of a grudge. Hauer gets to show his good side since he is now a single dad of a 13-year-old daughter from a subsequent marriage and divorce. His daughter Stacey, played by Sarah Ashley (Erin Brockovich) is wise beyond her years and is actually one of the brightest spots in the movie.

Things take a turn for the worse as it appears first that the kidnapper is going to get away clean with the money, and then suddenly the evidence points toward Reardon himself as the perpetrator. Some twists and witty banter from the supporting cast round out the film until its action sequence climax.

Certainly none of this isn't anything I haven't seen before, but I admit it is pretty well done and polished. I'd call it a decent way to spend an hour and a half, so long as you don't have some great film to watch instead. From straight to video fare, you don't really ask for more than that.

Artisan has been doing a great job in the transfer department, and this one looks great. It is a full frame transfer but there is no message of "formatted to fit your screen" anywhere so I'm presuming it was made for television. I didn't notice any cropping. Colors are bright and well saturated without bleeding or smearing. Fleshtones and blacks are fine, as is shadow detail. The print is free of nicks or scratches, and the only really noticeable grain came from some obvious stock footage of a plane landing. There was just a hint of edge enhancement but you had to look for it to notice. The same for a bit of motion artifacting which is slight and infrequent.

The soundtrack is an adequate Dolby Surround. There is little need for anything else, and this is a television soundtrack anyway. Frequency range is fine and dialogue is always understandable. The surrounds are used for little except the score and once or twice for emphasis.

This is a pretty barebones disc. Cast and crew info and the trailer are it. For some reason the leaflet inside the case has the exact same information as the bio of Rutger Hauer in the cast and crew info.

Perhaps the biggest problem with the film is putting two accented foreign actors together supposedly as American law enforcement people from Montana. There is a throwaway line where Hauer mentions that both he and Porizkova's characters are from European parentage. That helps some. Porizkova still needs some work on an American accent though.

Nothing else is really wrong with the movie, it's just that I've seen it all before. The FBI agent just happens to be the small town detective's ex-wife. What a coincidence! Something like that never happens, except lots of times in movies.

Again I must comment on the fact that Artisan still does not have closed captioning for the hearing impaired on their discs. I think this is a shame and in fact I hope someday all discs are required to have them. I also have to say DO NOT WATCH THE TRAILER BEFORE THE MOVIE. The trailer is a complete spoiler for the film. Shame, shame.

If you like whodunits with a decent plot and nice characters give this one a spin. Speaking for myself it fits more into the rental category than a must buy.

Norman Short.