Review: Murderland

Bel Powley and Amanda Hale as the younger and older Carrie in Murderland

Murderland is currently available on Amazon Video. It was originally a three part mystery on Britain’s iTV in 2009, but streams as a two hour movie on Amazon.

I watched the film because of the woman director, Catherine Morshead. The Brits were quite excited about the lead actor, Robbie Coltrane, who played police detective, Doug Hain. I was more interested in the female characters, as you might guess.

The story is about Sally’s (Lucy Cohu) murder. Her teen daughter Carrie (Bel Powley) might have seen the murderer, but the case goes unsolved by Det. Hain. Fifteen years later the adult Carrie (Amanda Hale), who now goes by Carol, returns to try to find her mother’s murderer.

She works with Det. Hain again, although he’s no longer an active police officer. She learns all sorts of secrets that weren’t revealed in the first investigation. During the original investigation Dr. Maitland (Sharon Small) tried to protect the young Carrie from knowing everything about the case. For example, Carrie’s mother worked in a massage parlor. Carrie thought she was the receptionist, but she was actually a prostitute.

The adult Carol interacts with Hain and with other police officers, especially Oliver (Nicholas Gleaves). She visits women from the still operational massage parlor, a woman named Rachel (Lorraine Ashbourne), and a creepy photographer and massage parlor regular named Whitaker (Andrew Tiernan). Everyone in that paragraph seems implicated in the murder, but were they really?

One of the secrets Carol learns is Hain was in love with Sally. He was also in her house on the day she was murdered. His position as a client of Sally’s meant he was dropped from the case when it was originally investigated.

As things unfold we learn there was a lot more than a one-off murder going on. There was money laundering. There was pedophilia. There were crooked cops on the take.

The story circled from one point of view to another. We saw it from young Carrie’s point of view, from Hain’s, and from grown up Carol’s. The same scene would play several times from differing points of view, each retelling adding something you didn’t know the first time through.

Overall I found the story a well-trod one of police corruption and borderline boring. Murderland was enlivened by Bel Powley’s performance as the young daughter. The female perspective in the storytelling was interesting.

The actors kept me engaged in this drama. I’ve seen enough British TV now to recognize actors from one thing and another. That wakes me up a bit when I recognize someone. Mali Harries from Hinterland was in Murderland in a minor part. Lorraine Ashbourne I remembered from Unforgotten. Nicholas Gleaves I remembered from Scott & Bailey. I recently watched Bel Powley in Carrie Pilby.

Thanks to Netflix and Amazon Video I’m learning the names of many English actors. Also Canadian actors, especially the ones who circulate through sci-fi series. Five years ago I might not have been aware of a single actor on British or Canadian TV. Times have changed, and viewing is better for it.

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