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TV REVIEW : ‘L.A. Takedown’ Is Another Mann’s ‘Vice’

Just what the world needs: Another stab at a Designer Cop Show. Like most of writer-director-executive producer Michael Mann’s work, “L.A. Takedown"--a two-hour TV movie airing Sunday at 9 p.m. on Channels 4, 36 and 39--has some startlingly strong moments but generally feels like an upscale men’s fashion magazine tossed into a pop blender with a videotape loop of a lesser, latter-day Peckinpah bloodbath and a brooding New Age synthesizer cassette. If you can stand the score, you can probably stand the gore.

This casting may or may not be a perverse homage to Mann’s success with “Miami Vice,” but the doomed villain here, played to wicked yet sympathetic perfection by Alex McArthur, looks a little like Don Johnson. Heh-heh. As written by Mann, he’s much more interesting than the not-doomed (this is a pilot for a weekly series) hero, Victor Hanna, essayed with understandable blandness by Scott Plank.

Mann does usually have a good ear for the way people talk. It’s wasted here on his good-guy L.A. cop, whose personality quirks are limited to arguments with his wife--who, surprise, thinks her crime-stopper husband is flipping out and becoming overly obsessed with his work.

It’s put to far better use on the bad-guy L.A. bank robber, whose homicidal single-mindedness doesn’t prevent him from accidentally falling for a lonely, lovely, normal gal between big scores in which innocent folks get shot to pieces.

Two scenes stand out, only one for the right reason. A bank holdup scene set on Wilshire Boulevard, with a subsequent carnage-riddled shoot-out, is completely riveting, thanks to the passing power Mann invests in the fleeting sight of civilians getting blown away. The violence jars you, but a moment later it’s easy--too easy--to shake off.

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More admirable, though, is a subtle interchange between the career criminal and his newly found girlfriend: They talk about their mutual attraction, then they start talking about the mundane details of her job as a graphic designer, then they start kissing. Just as incongruous and out of order as real life. It’s a sensitively drawn scene that belongs in a different, better picture.

This theoretical different, better picture might also make more profound use of its trumpeted L.A. locations. The hero of “L.A. Takedown” is married and doesn’t have a pardner of color, and no drug kingpins are involved this go-round, but otherwise this vice could just as well be unraveling over Miami way.


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