TV Review: Zen
Sunglasses and Shady Dealings

The Stage, 6 January 2011

Sharp suits, sharp practices and even sharper cheekbones. Welcome to the highly telegenic world of Italian detective Zen, based upon the bestselling novels by Michael Dibdin.

Rufus Sewell takes the title role - the name is Venetian, as Zen takes great pains to inform anybody who asks - as a cop with integrity in a country where policing is pragmatic and politics is all-pervasive.

Episode one, 'Vendetta', saw our hero caught between a rock and a hard place - figuratively and literally - as he investigates a high profile murder in Sicily. The findings will either damage the reputation of the government or that of his own department, so keeping both parties happy is difficult. Keeping alive is even harder.

For there is a disgruntled ex-convict at large, ruthlessly executing all those involved in his arrest and imprisonment, with Zenís name high on his list of targets.

But being an Italian, Zen still manages to find the time, between all the carnage and corruption, to instigate an office romance with the departmentís mysterious and beautiful new secretary.

So, never a dull moment in the programme, which got off to a highly promising start. Rufus Sewellís performance is understated but gripping, providing an intense and still centre to all the murderous mayhem swirling around. This element of composure lends even greater impact to the penultimate scenes where Zen is forced into action, escaping assassins or trapped underground in a labyrinth of flooded caves.

Stylish, sumptuous, and suspenseful, 'Zen'ís 90 minutes sped by. And there wasnít a ridiculous cod Italian accent to be heard in any of them, thank God.

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