Saturday, April 30, 2005

Investigation Of The Crazies, By The Crazies

Oh, Vincent D'Onofrio. Oh, oh Vincent. How I adore you, and your uniquely freakish scenery-masticating brand of thespian baroquery. Who among us can truthfully deny that her life was changed forever by your visionary portrayal of The Bug In The Edgar Suit in Men In Black?

Now, every Saturday night right after the aforespurned 'CSI: New York', the gods rain manna upon me in the form of 'Law & Order: Criminal Intent', nth modulation in the ceaselessly mitotic 'Law & Order' franchise. Most of the 'Laws & Order' are heroically tedious ordeals (is there any duller genre than the courtroom drama in all of human enterprise?), with the notable exception of the truly vicious, voyeuristic, terrifyingly misogynistic 'Special Victims Unit'. But 'Criminal Intent' is a bird of an entirely different stripe, and that, friends, is down to Our Vincent.

OV plays Detective Robert Goren, 'an exceptionally bright homicide investigator with well-honed instincts that match up favorably with his criminal quarry.' Translation: it takes a nutter to catch a nutter. OV's Goren is a man-shaped heap of neuroses, tics, obscure anguishes and inappropriate attachments. His mother was schizophrenic (a bit of backstory which seldom goes an episode unreferenced), and Goren himself is surely at least borderline OCD. OV is at his scene-munching finest: he grunts, he grimaces, he gestures frantically with twitching fingers, he bobbles his head while peering slyly sidelong up into the suspect's wigged-out, sussed-out mien. He makes death-defying leaps of intuition in a single groan. His face crumples into a mask of existential ache as, in the climax of each episode, he crouches by the perp's side at the interview table and manipulates her into confessing the murder, by voicing her pain. Vincent, I mean Goren, psyches out these people because he is these people.

Every episode seems to feature a perp who personifies some new, utterly fucked aspect of Goren's barely-socialized personality. Surely this is not accidental. The writers have a plan. Once there was an obsessive nurse who stalked her ex-husband by visiting his house every day, cleaning it and packing him a nice lunch in Tupperware. Also by murdering a radio shock-jock and weaving his hair into a keyring for Ex-Man. As the investigation proceeded she moonlighted obsessing about Goren, who not only let her stalk him but became emotionally attached to her and got all anguished when she was collared. There was a (very insensitively-portrayed; naughty writers) Asperger's perp who drummed his fingers on the table just like Goren; they drummed a little duet. Goren solved the crime by inhabiting, effortlessly, the autistic's instinct for pattern and discerning said pattern in a seemingly random series of killings. The line between Goren and the psychos he hunts is hair-thin, and Our Vincent gives us everything he's got to make us buy it.

There are other characters in 'Criminal Intent', but the cast list might as well read 'Yeah and some other people, whatever.' They exist as translucent foils, because Vincent has to have someone to bark, whine, gibber or whisper to. 'Criminal Intent' is the Vincent D'Onofrio Histrionic Wonder Hour. Long may he emote.

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