Tuesday, 28 June 2022

‘Ray Donovan’ seeks closure; Nordic Noir on Viaplay



‘RAY DONOVAN: THE MOVIE’ ON SHOWTIME


Two years ago, viewers were left hanging after the conclusion of the seventh season of “Ray Donovan” when Showtime, to the consternation of the fan base, abruptly cancelled the series its creative team had planned to wrap up in a finale year.

Now comes the feature-length ending in “Ray Donovan: The Movie,” which picks up the storyline after the last season when the husband (Graham Rogers) of Ray’s daughter has been gunned down on a Brooklyn street and Ray’s father Mickey (Jon Voight) flees with purloined stocks.

Closure can be cathartic, and in the case of the saga of Ray Donovan (Liev Schreiber), a Los Angeles-based fixer skirting the law and ethics for his elite clientele during the first five seasons, the movie works its way to a fairly untidy and chaotic closing.

Not surprisingly, a day of reckoning is at hand in which the brooding Ray, conflicted in a series of flashbacks to his childhood clashes with his strutting younger father (Bill Heck), faces off with Voight’s aging ex-con Mickey, relentlessly sleazy and dangerous as always.

Throughout the series run, there was always a volatile relationship between the mobster father and son, stretching back to the first season when Mickey was released from prison and Ray was hoping recidivism would send his murderous father back to the slammer.

The entire Donovan family, with its roots in the working-class part of Boston, has issues. Ray’s older brother Terry (Eddie Marsan) is a former boxer suffering from Parkinson’s disease.

Ray’s younger brother Bunchy (Dash Mihok) has a substance abuse problem connected to molestation as a child. The movie brings out the truth of the death of Ray’s teen sister. Half-brother Daryll (Pooch Hall) has his own set of issues.

To say the Donovan family is dysfunctional is an understatement. With a father like Mickey, it’s little wonder everyone has problems. In his own inimitable way though, Ray goes about trying to clean up the messes of his clients as well as those of family.

Most satisfying for the hardcore fans is the movie’s sharp focus on the complicated Donovan family, most particularly on the troubling dynamic of Ray and Mickey being at odds over the history of a lifetime.

The younger versions of father and son in numerous flashbacks add needed texture to a relationship that deviated from the norms of social behavior. Chris Gray’s Ray displays a pragmatic maturity as opposed to Bill Heck’s charismatic yet irrational and impulsive Mickey.

To enjoy “Ray Donovan: The Movie” it’s inevitable that the narrative elements of the travails of the complex characters are only fully understood with an appreciation of the seasons that preceded.

Discussing the undercurrents of intrigue and violence that plague the Donovan family risks revealing key points that are best to be discovered, though arguably “Ray Donovan: The Movie” does arrive at an ending that seems fitting and rather predictable.

Arguably, the “Ray Donovan” series had so many moving parts, chiefly when the focus was on family rather than Ray’s fixer role for private clients, that many fans may come away with the impression the movie does not suffice to tie up many unresolved plot elements.

NORDIC NOIR AND MORE ON VIAPLAY

Who can keep up with the ever-changing landscape of streaming services? Now along comes Viaplay, accessed through Comcast Xfinity, a streaming service that offers Scandinavian drama, crime and comedy programs.

Our winter television press tour will feature two Viaplay original productions. “Partisan” follows Johnny (Swedish-Lebanese actor Fares Fares), a mysterious man who enters Jordnara, a seemingly idyllic gated community running a thriving organic farm, to work as a truck driver.

He is actually a Swedish secret police agent assigned to infiltrate the community and unearth criminal activity. The mastermind (Johan Rheborg) of Jordnara is suspected of money laundering and embezzlement.

Johnny’s arrival at the farm coincides with two other new members: teenage sisters Nicole and Maria. The two seem out of place and it soon becomes apparent that young girls before them (and like them) who come for an elite gymnastics program vanish without a trace.

The intrigue of Nordic Noir in “Partisan” builds when the Swedish agent begins to suspect foul play and is driven by a mission that cuts deep into him. Johnny’s drive will push him to sacrifice everything for his beliefs.

The drama “Love Me” poses the question of how love can change life. Through a story of friendship, grief and romance spanning three generations of Stockholmers, this Viaplay series embraces one of humanity’s biggest questions in a way that is sometimes touching and often comic.

A Norwegian police procedural series, “Wisting,” starring Sven Nordin as senior police detective William Wisting, already has two seasons under its belt and will be a perfect fit for streaming.

As an aside, long ago I attended a Norwegian opera in Los Angeles which was so depressing that it made the darkest German opera of Richard Wagner seem like a lighthearted romp. Here’s hoping Viaplay’s Nordic Noir is more thrilling than bleak.

Tim Riley writes film and television reviews for Lake County News.

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