River Blu-ray Review
Talk Amongst Yourself
TV Series Review
Predicated upon your tolerance of a slightly whimsical visual gimmick, the twist to River’s otherwise conventional cop drama marginally distracts from its otherwise compelling mental health intrigue.River is an ageing, tough, hardened, veteran, clichéd detective character who doesn’t play by the rules, doesn’t like the idea of having to see a counsellor, or being dressed down by his superiors, or pulled off cases. His bosses like his results but hate his manner. It’s nothing you haven’t seen before a hundred times. However, River’s key difference is that he talks to his partner. And his partner is dead. Handled smartly, this ostensible gimmick provides the lynchpin to distinguish River within the ever-burgeoning Brit/Nordic noir sub-sub-genre. Its success comes, though, through the casting of veteran actor Stellan Skarsgard in the lead role. Despite great support from Nicola Walker (Spooks, Touching Evil), Adeel Akhtar (Four Lions, Utopia), newcomer Georgina Rich, and the reliably unpleasant Eddie Marsan (Southcliffe, Tyrannosaur), it’s Skarsgard who drives – and steals – the show.Although he may have become a household name through his Marvel contributions, the Swedish actor actually made some pretty meaty features back in the day, including the superior crime thriller Insomnia (which Chris Nolan would later remake with Pacino in the same role); his beleaguered detective here is a not-so-distantly related cousin, with Skarsgard pulling out all the stops to portray this traumatised character; his post-traumatic stress presenting in a uniquely visualised way, as not only his partner but actually new victims and old murderers haunt his waking hours, and as he spends the majority of his time basically talking to himself. With a game supporting cast, and a suitably dramatic story to tell (it’s one of those series with an over-arching back-story which arguably takes precedence over the ongoing detective tales within the episodes) River is a moody, engaging – albeit gimmicky – TV police series.
Being another digital HD TV show, River rarely disappoints.
With sometimes striking visuals, and a cinematographic quality to some of the framing, River provides slick police procedural observation undercut with a stylish edge. Detail is excellent, with impressive finer observations bringing the streets to life, and there are no signs of any digital defects to distract from your enjoyment of the scene - black levels may make the predominately dark environments far from perfect, but there's nothing here to keep you from getting absorbed. The colour scheme is rich and realistic, steeped in grime and grit but still popping with more vibrant tones to bring life to the visuals, and overall it's a solid, at times impressive visual presentation for this release.
The DTS-HD MA 5.1 aural accompaniment also delivers the goods.
Again, although nothing necessarily to write home about, River offers up solid aural design, promoting the rich dialogue front and centre across the array, whilst effects bring the streets to life, lend weight to the gunshots and more high-impact moments (assisted by the LFE channel) and the score provides a backbone to the entire piece. There's no great depth but there's strong fidelity and quite a lot of activity considering the at-times limited content. Overall, a solid, faithful rendition of the series.
ExtrasAlthough not packed, this is far from a bare-bones release, with the second of the two discs boasting a quartet of extra material: 3 Featurettes - The Making of River (10 minutes); Creating Manifests (5 minutes); and Being River (5 minutes), all crammed with informative interview snippets from the creators and cast, including Skarsgard himself - as well as 9 minutes of Deleted Scenes.
River is a moody, engaging and different - albeit in a slightly gimmicky way - police TV series.
This Region B-locked UK Blu-ray release boasts strong video, audio and extras, and makes for a solid package for fans interested in picking up, or indeed revisiting, this interesting series.
You can buy River on Blu-ray here
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £17.99
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