Cast: Donald Strachey (Chad Allen), Tim Callahan (Sebastian Spence), Detective Bailey (Daryl Shuttleworth), Kenny Kwon (Nelson Wong)
Director: Ron Oliver
Original air date(s): 10/12/2008
DVD Date: 11/09/2010
Running Time: 84 minutes
Note(s): Screenplay adapted from the novel Ice Blues by Richard Stevenson.
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Review: Ice Blues is the fourth made-for-television movie adapted from a series of mysteries by Richard Stevenson and featuring Albany (NY) private investigator Don Strachey. I've seen the three previous films in the series (reviews of two of which appear on this site, Third Man Out and On the Other Hand Death), and though all have been good, this most recent one is the best of the lot.
Strachey's partner, Timmy Callahan, an aide to a New York State Senator, gets word that one of the state's programs for at risk kids is losing its funding. Determined to keep the program going, he begins to solicit private donations, raising just a small fraction of the $3 million needed. Leaving his office one evening, he's met by a man who insists on anonymity and hands him an envelope containing $3 million in bearer bonds. Before he knows what's happening, a motorcycle comes around the corner and fires a gun at them. The man runs off and apparently falls to his death after leaping from the Senate building's parking garage. Timmy escapes, but when the police arrive, there's no body. Strachey takes Timmy and the bearer bonds home, intending to find the source and return them in the morning. Imagine their surprise when the anonymous man's body shows up in Strachey's car the next day. With a message clearly being sent by the killer, Strachey sets out to get to the bottom of the mystery.
The plot is for the most part nicely crafted and the film well paced ... though I didn't buy the backstory involving the police detective and his cold suicide (or was it murder?) case. I haven't read the book from which this film was adapted, so I don't know whether or not it was included in the original material or was added for dramatic effect in the screenplay. Regardless, it doesn't work and is more of an unnecessary distraction than anything else. I'm typically not keen on films that begin with a shocking (in this case, literally) opening scene then go back in time with what happened to lead up to the scene, but in this case, it works. And while the subject matter here is serious -- child pornography -- the film adds a few lighter touches with Strachey's assistant, who's taking a course in private investigation.
Like the previous films in the series, it has a good, if somewhat consistently gray, look to it. Yes, it's cold and snowing but Strachey and Timmy's house is also done over in a black and white color scheme, so the overall look here is certainly not unintentional.
I've commented in the past that I find Sebastian Spence's prissy portray of Timmy Callahan annoying. It is here too, but maybe I'm just getting used to it, because I didn't find it quite as objectionable as I have in previous films. Still, I think the film (and series) would be stronger if Timmy wasn't quite so excitable. On the other hand, I think Chad Allen is just about perfect as Don Strachey; his performance in Ice Blues is strong and on point.
Ice Blues was made in 2008 and there's been no indication that a fifth is planned. (There are eight books in the series.) And that's really quite unfortunate, since the films have only gotten better with each succeeding one.
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