True Romance writ. Paul Abbot dir. Tim Fywell

star. Robbie Coltrane as Dr. Eddie "Fitz" Fitzgerald

Lawrence Russell

If you accept the fact that True Romance is the last episode in the Cracker series (rumors of one or two others in the can but not broadcast persist), then you have to admire the symmetry it completes when harnessed to the very first episode, The Mad Woman in the Attic. Both stories involve female students that Fitz teaches, and both develop situations that act as analogues to his own professional and personal lives. The fractured selves of Inquisitor and Counsellor are beautifully dramatized in their contradictory, sadomasochistic binding. "Daddy" -- the brute we hate to love.

Lecture: love & sex & devotion

Janice (Emily Joyce) is a horny young lab assistant working at the university, a devotee who sits in on all of Fitz's lectures, then starts electrocuting her student lovers (after some quick pick-up sex), transporting their naked bodies in a funky little red mail van before skillfully dumping them into a polluted gully. This black widow m.o. is her way of gaining the Big Man's attention... as he too is guilty of spurning her just like her incest-loving father did, the wealthy butcher who taught her how to electrocute an animal.

Like a soap opera where every character must rotate through each bed and grave of the core cast, True Romance neatly shuffles its ironies so that everyone gets a chance to share Fitz's special spiritual schizophrenia. The boss cop -- D.C.I. Wise (Ricky Tomlinson) -- is given the boot by his wife. Penhaligan spurns Fitz, takes up with Jimmy Beck's replacement. Judith Fitzgerald tries Danny, Fitz's brother. And son Mark Fitzgerald becomes the final hostage of the psychopathic Janice in a desperate quid pro quo for Fitz's love.

"Every cripple finds his way to walk"

The last dysfunction of this bent La Ronde sees Judith and Fitz alone together at the entrance of the hospital where their son is recovering. Stunned, chastened, ready it would seem for the big reconciliation, Judith says (imploringly), "Would you die for me? Just me?" Fitz lingers for a moment, and then, as if realizing how insane his wife really is, turns and steps outside, the glass door closing.

The final closeup of the Big Man is like a Gitanes commercial by -- and starring -- Orson Welles: music up (light jazz) as the smoke from his ubiquitous cigarette gently flows over the contours of his jowelled face. Fade as the Credits Roll.

Very nice. Leave your mask on the couch, folks.

LR 1/2000

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