The Netflix original series “Inside Man” is excellent. You can’t help but be captivated by the image of a scruffy, melancholy David Tennant that greets you when you first click on the thumbnail.
It’s been 31 years since Anthony Hopkins gave us Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs, since he sucked his teeth and peered down the lens straight into our livers and spoke in a light, Larry Hagmanish drawl that made everything he uttered 300 times more terrible. It’s challenging to emerge from the shadow of his boiler suit, as he continues to be the undisputed best.
What is the Storyline of Inside Man?
Moffat has become famous for rebooting series like Doctor Who and reimagining classics like Sherlock and The Time Traveler’s Wife, but Inside Man is completely unique. Jefferson Grieff, also known as the Death Row Detective, is awaiting execution for the horrible murder of his wife, and over the course of four one-hour episodes, the scriptwriter crafts the twisted tale of a brilliant and crazy new anti-hero.
Starring Tucci, this villain is a sociology professor turned serial murderer who is an unrivalled specialist on the dark side of human nature. He’ll listen calmly while a frantic senator, a heartbroken family, and a suspicious journalist (Lydia West) present the facts of their cases in a meeting room at a maximum security jail.
Sometimes he’ll provide a hand to those in need, and he’ll do it with an air of detached authority as if he’s enjoying every minute of the control he has over people, even as he sits in a cell waiting for his execution date to be set.
In the meantime, the film shifts its focus from Grieff and his cheery but unsettling cellmate Dillon (Atkins Estimond), whose criminal past sounds frighteningly like Ed Gein’s, to Harry Watling (David Tennant), a vicar who lives a tranquil life in England. Harry goes about his normal day while Grieff questions a potential client.
He meets with a distressed member of his congregation, talks to his wife (Lyndsey Marshal), and jokes around with his son’s math tutor (Dolly Wells) (Louis Oliver).
Moffat brings dimension to the Watlings’ lives with slightly salty remarks, from parent to child and priest to parishioner, which is a far cry from the bland, cosy atmosphere of those ubiquitous true crime documentary programmes that present every household as a lovely place until murder hits.
For example, Harry enjoys it when people tease him about telling dark jokes by dubbing him a “dark vicar.” I’ll take the dark vicar, Harry says with a grin.
Inside Man is heightened by the surroundings and the characters’ joyful irreverence. Moffat’s sharp wit gives us characters who aren’t your typical motherly, priestly, or classroom kinds. They’re too witty to be credible. They are even more interesting because they aren’t perfect.
At first glance, it’s unclear how the story of this English family could intersect with that of the American wife-killer. However, Moffat will not keep viewers waiting long to witness the steep slope of which his murderous Hercule Poirot warns to anyone who will listen: “Everyone’s a murderer…All it takes is a good reason and a bad day.”
Should You Watch the Movie?
We are beginning to assume that Inside Man’s creator and showrunner, Steven Moffat, is the British Ryan Murphy. His shows are either great or absurd. The more we consider the structure and setup of Inside Man’s story, the more we realise that the whole thing is a bunch of hooey.
Moffat twists himself into a pretzel of a story to explain how “cool vicar” Harry, a supposed man of God, could ever have Janice confined in his basement. Honestly, we don’t think it would read very clearly if we tried to explain all the schemes, coincidences, and misunderstandings that got him into this predicament.
Because we spend no time with Harry prior to his crisis, he comes out as more of a caricature than a character. Janice isn’t much better, but her prisoner strategies do show her intelligence.
Still, that’s not the whole story. Tucci’s portrayal of a Sherlock Holmes on death row is the other half of this equation. The initial mystery that doesn’t fulfil his “moral worth” criterion and the lengthy interview sequence with Beth give us a lot of time with Grieff, another character who is more of a character sketch than a real person.
Tucci is in top form as Grieff, and he could carry an entire series on his own, with Dillon playing the role of his deadly Watson. The senator’s case and Grieff’s theory, which he supposedly came up with on the spot, were intriguing enough to make us want to see more of them.
Even though Grieff aids Beth in uncovering Janice’s whereabouts, we get the impression that neither tale will get enough airtime because of the bizarre kidnapping plotline. Furthermore, we learn of Janice and Beth’s friendship after the opening scene only through a text message.
So, there’s no reason to believe she cares so deeply about Janice that she’d risk the piece she’s working on to convince him to assist her find out what happened, or even to suspect anything is wrong.
So, as we mentioned, it’s all just absurd. It would be one thing if the absurdity was humorous. However, the insanity of Tennant’s version will divert your attention from Tucci’s entertaining account.
Inside Man has its share of comedic moments, with Tucci shining in the role of Grieff. But the show’s central premise rests on a ridiculous misinterpretation that requires the characters to improbably go through too many hoops.