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The Hawk Review

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Learning about a new serial killer that is attacking women, a housewife begins to get suspicious that it could be her husband, then changes her mind to thinking it's his brother. It then comes to light that she's had a mental breakdown and her judgment is called in to question.

★★★★★

In the north of England, a serial killer has been preying on women, picking up the nickname "the Hawk" because of his habit of scooping out their eyes with a claw-hammer. Averagely neurotic Manchester housewife Helen Mirren gradually comes to suspect, with little real evidence, that her averagely slobby husband (Costigan) is the murderer. Or if it isn't him, then it's his disreputable wideboy brother (Teale).

A variation on the "somebody's husband, somebody's son" theme raised by the Yorkshire Ripper case, this BBC film (i.e.: no gore) offers the ever-more-wonderful Mirren a chance to follow her then-Prime Suspect triumph in an ostensibly similar genre piece. As in the first Prime Suspect, the suspense depends on our unwillingness to go along with Mirren's almost instinctive belief in the guilt of one of the men in her life. Both suspects seem to rule themselves out time and time again, but doubts linger. Costigan is paradoxically at his most innocent when being obnoxious, with each indication of fundamental British grottiness (he ruins an evening out with some of Mirren's higher-toned friends by cracking racist jokes and puking in the restaurant) making him seem like a red herring rather than the killer. The gradual revelation that Mirren is a recovered nut-job, following a violent post-natal depression, only adds to the unsatisfactory confusion.

Despite Mirren's sterling work and a general feel of creepiness, there are a few major plot-holes, and the finale, while unusual and effective, shifts it all into an intellectual plane when simple blood 'n' guts action might have been more rousing. A typical Screen One production, this is a good TV movie, but perhaps not a great theatrical release.

Mirren well cast as a character very similar to Jane Tennison, in deciding she knows who the murderer is purely by gut feeling alone. But where the casting agent has cleverly exploited that fact is in the revelation that her character, Annie has suffered a breakdown and suddenly we are unsure of her judgement. Sadly though that is not enough to make this poor attempt at British horror frightening or convincing.

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