In the best examples of crime fiction (on the printed page and the big/small screen), the setting becomes a character unto itself. The atmosphere and surroundings are so integral to the story being told that the novel/film/series would not work without them. This is commonplace in crime novels where readers’ imaginations can transport them anywhere in the world if the words are properly crafted. Robert Parker and Dennis Lehane are the masters of Boston crime dramas. George Pelecanos owns the fictional ground surrounding our nation’s capital. Richard Price brings the mean streets of New York to life on the written page. And best-selling author Michael Connelly has become synonymous with Los Angeles. Many critics and readers consider him the Raymond Chandler of the 21st Century. In Connelly’s series of novels featuring Harry Bosch, the darkness of death is right around the corner from the glitz and the glamor of Hollywood. Bosch lives and works where these two worlds intersect, and that is one of the many things that Bosch, the new Amazon Prime series, gets right from the moment the opening credits roll.
For those viewers not familiar with the novels, Bosch is a former Special Forces member and a veteran Los Angeles homicide detective. As the first episode opens, Bosch is on trial for the shooting of a suspect in a serial murder case. He and the City of Los Angeles have been sued by the daughter of the deceased victim although Bosch was cleared by an internal investigation. While Bosch is sitting on the sidelines, awaiting the end of the litigation, he takes a weekend call concerning a bone found by a dog in the Hollywood hills. The detective isn’t overly concerned until he learns it’s a child’s arm bone. Suddenly, a routine call is no longer a routine call, and I’ll leave the rest of the plot for you to discover on your own.
Bosch is the most authentic crime drama since The Wire. But where David Simon’s HBO drama cast a critical gaze that examined cops, criminals, politicians, journalists, school teachers and other segments of urban America affected by crime and the drug trade, Bosch sticks to its crime procedural roots and does it to great effect. It features pitch-perfect dialogue sprinkled with enough cop slang to feel real without losing the viewer’s comprehension in the process. Although the cases unfold at a nice slow burn, every episode furthers the narrative. There’s no “dead air” with Bosch as there frequently was with a series like AMC’s The Killing.
Titus Welliver (Deadwood, Lost) commands the screen while playing Bosch as the quiet thinker he is. A “big” performance would have destroyed Connelly’s introspective story-telling, and Welliver is a marvel of coiled energy and pensive silences. Rich character details bring the ensemble cast to life like Jerry Edgar’s need to stop at an outlet mall before interviewing a witness, so he can buy a pair of high-end shoes. The coroner discussing his faith and Bosch’s lack of it in the face of such horrific crimes. Bosch and his rookie cop lover admitting to one another that their commitment to law enforcement is an obsession they can’t control despite the fact it destroys their personal lives. These moments are every bit as memorable as the plot twists and turns and bursts of on-screen action.
Fans of Connelly’s novels will revel in seeing the real world settings that have filled thousands of pages over the years, and there are Easter eggs aplenty for the more observant audience members. Bosch name drops Mariachi Plaza (an important setting in The Burning Room). A foot chase in the opening episode takes him by the Angels Flight tram. During pillow talk, Bosch mentions being shot by bank robbers (The Black Echo) and his trip to Hong Kong to see his daughter (Nine Dragons). And many Connelly metaphors from the likes of The Last Coyote and Lost Light make a thematic appearance.
I read my first Michael Connelly novel almost 20 years ago (The Poet, 1996), and I’ve been a fan ever since. So, non-readers of Connelly’s series can take my review with a skeptical grain of salt, but I promise that salt will dissolve and disappear after about two episodes of this Amazon Prime series. If you think about it, a true fan of the novels might be the best person to review the online series because if they screwed up Harry Bosch, I’d be the first person to pull up my soapbox and scream about it. As of this writing, I’ve seen six of the ten episodes. I can’t bring myself to binge watch something that I’ve waited a good twenty years to see. So, my grade for Bosch stands at a 9 out of 10. I’ll give it one final point if it sticks the landing. I’m a Michael Connelly fan from way back, but I’m not a total pushover.
The Movie Isle
Scott Phillips holds a degree in print journalism from the University of Georgia and is currently a member of the Georgia Film Critics Association (GAFCA). In addition to his role as a correspondent for Timed Edition, Scott serves as the Executive Editor and Senior Writer for themovieisle.com. From 2013 through 2017, he reviewed films for filmdispenser.com. Along with his duties as a critic, Scott serves as the Content Programmer for the Way Down Film Festival held in Columbus, Georgia every fall.