'Low Winter Sun' review: Worth a shot

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Lennie James, left, and Mark Strong, center, talk

Lennie James, left, and Mark Strong, center, talk during a break in the filming of "Low Winter Sun" in Detroit. (May 20, 2013) Photo Credit: AP

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THE SHOW "Low Winter Sun"

WHEN | WHERE Sunday at 10:04 p.m. on AMC

WHAT IT'S ABOUT Detroit cops Frank Agnew (Mark Strong) and Joe Geddes (Lennie James) decide one night to kill their corrupt, murderous colleague -- their reasons for doing so will be explored in the course of this 10-part series. But how? That's the plan hatched in the opening moments, while he's near blackout drunk in some local bar. After the deed is done, they dispose of the body and begin the process of hiding their crime and creating alibis. That's when things start to get complicated. An internal affairs officer (played by David Costabile, "The Wire") is about to begin an investigation of the murdered cop. Based on a two-part 2006 British miniseries written by Simon Donald (also starring Strong).

MY SAY Determinedly dark, "Low Winter Sun" is very nearly TV "noir." All the characters are hard-boiled, or bad to the bone, sheltering their own mysteries, grudges and furies. No one smiles unless it's a sneer. A cold blanket of gray spreads over Detroit, where blackened buildings crumble alongside vacant lots that are occupied only by the indigent, or dead. The winter sun isn't just low over this blighted landscape -- it's nonexistent. In some ways, "Low Winter Sun" makes you feel like you've arrived at the end of the story instead of the beginning: This world full of the damned has already fallen and can't get back up.

Instead, you're left on your own, to pick your way through the wreckage of these lives and their tangled stories. So consider the foregoing an advisory if not quite a warning. This isn't for all tastes, and the trope of "tortured cop protagonist" has been worked over so often that viewers may not be able to decide what's so different (or engaging) this time around. But at least they can witness two actors of uncommon skill and power, with excellent support.

Strong is particularly good as the desperado cop who struggles to cover the sloppy tracks he's laid down; you can almost see the flop sweat glisten on his brow.

BOTTOM LINE Terrifically hard to love, but some superb performances indicate that at least it's worth the effort to try.


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