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Zen: Vendetta Cabal Ratking (2d)


Theatrical Release: 2011

Cast: Rufus Sewell, Caterina Murino, Stanley Townsend, Ben Miles, Vincent Riotta, Francesco Quinn

Genre(s): TV, Drama, mystery, crime, Dean's List

Countries: United Kingdom, Italy, Germany (East/West)

Location in store:

(1 / 1)
Ant Rating
Running Time: 265m.

Detective Aurelio Zen (Rufus Sewell) is scrupulously, almost helplessly honest--which, in the woefully corrupt bureaucracies of Rome, makes everyone think he's incompetent or perhaps a bit stupid. Zen saunters through his cases, not always ahead of things or even on the right track, yet blessed with a gift for landing on his feet when bloody events go down. In "Vendetta," the first episode in this TV series, he investigates a seemingly shut-and-closed case while being hunted himself by someone from a past he's forgotten; in "Cabal," the unveiling of a sinister conspiracy hinges on a safety deposit box and an alluring high-class escort; and in "Ratking," an opulently wealthy family grapples with a kidnapping with precarious political stakes. Throughout, higher authorities push and prod at Zen to come to a desired conclusion, while Zen himself steers towards a delicate romance with a lovely--and married--coworker, Tania Moretti (Italian actress Caterina Murino, Casino Royale). Zen delights the ear and the eye--the plots and dialogue are swift and skilled, while the locations in Rome are gorgeous. Sewell slouches around in tailored Italian suits looking like Marcello Mastraoianni's louche little brother, dissolute on the surface but with a gleam of rectitude in his heavy-lidded eyes. He plays his part with delicious understatement, gleaning sly humor where he can, sometimes playing his cards well and sometimes desperately flailing to catch up with events that have outstripped him. And Zen may have the sexiest theme music in decades. A well-made and informative making-of featurette rounds out this satisfying set. (Bret Fetzer)

Vendetta - Zen is sent to a remote village to re-investigate a murder, which may spark a political scandal.

Cabal - Playboy Umberto Ruspanti falls from a bridge,an apparent suicide but minister Colonna asks Zen to investigate and he finds the dead man's flat was ransacked. His last diary entry read AOC and his nervous lawyer tells Zen he was trying to make much-needed cash from a valuable and illegal sale. Later Zen is approached by the fugitive Massimo,fleeing the powerful and illicit right wing group the Cabal,whom,he claims,killed Umberto. At the funeral Zen meets glamorous call girl Arianna who tells him that Ruspanti had been involved in criminal activities and he was to get himself off the hook by betraying the Cabal.His information was in a safe deposit box,which she helps Zen procure. But then they are threatened by a gunman wanting the box.Is he working alone or does the Cabal really exist? (don@minifie-1)

Ratking - With Moscati invalided out, Zen gets a new boss: icy, unsmiling Heuber, who regards Zen as a maverick and tells him so. Thus he is not pleased when Colonna again asks for Zen's intervention in rescuing kidnap victim Ruggiero Miletti, a wealthy philanthropist who has donated to Colonna's party funds. Miletti's lawyer, Piretta, was murdered whilst delivering the ransom, and his glamorous young widow blames Miletti's family, claiming they wanted their father dead. Zen finds Miletti's petulant son Silvio at odds with his amorous sister Cinzia and her well-organized husband Carlo, whilst Zen's colleague Vincenzo, choked that Heuber got the job he wanted, feels they should bungle the case to discredit their boss. Against Moscati's advice, Zen agrees to deliver a second ransom given him by Colonna, but Miletti is found dead. Zen is suspended but, after contacting the genuine kidnappers, discovers that Miletti's actual killer is far closer to home, leading to Heuber's dismissal and Zen's promotion. (don@minifie-1)

Member Reviews

When in Rome. . . by C20004656 - November 16, 2012
. . . and the characters are Romans, you have two options for dialogue. 1) Everybody speaks Italian, with subtitles. 2) Everybody speaks English, and we make believe. Accents optional, but if one person talks like a spicy meat-a-ball, everybody talks like a spicy meat-a-ball. I watched "Zen" while finishing up another Roman show, "I Claudius," which does Option 2 right. We're watching the cream of Britain's acting talent; we can just imagine they're speaking Latin, right? The hybrid approach in "Zen" is maddeningly distracting. Awrelliyo Zen is supposed to be Italian (there is a recurring . . . joke? that the name "Zen" is Venetian, which perhaps is funny to Venetians, if they're that kind of people), only he sounds like a London cabbie, while his creepily sensual mother (fellas! When your mom greets you in the early morning wearing a clinging satin robe, do you stroke a lock of her hair while she gives you your espresso?) has a thick Italian accent. A sign says "pericolo" instead of "danger." Two thugs speak English in their car, but when they hit another car, those drivers unleash a string of mamma-mia-tutti-frutti invective -- so if *they're* speaking Italian, what were those first guys speaking? Italian language and Italian accents are sprinkled over "Zen" like oregano, but instead of giving it an Italian taste, it feels like we're watching an alternate-universe Italy that was colonized by English criminals, followed by English policemen to catch them. Truly, the sun never sets on Her Majesty's empire.

Which would all be fine if the dialogue or the plots were any good, but I fell asleep about four times per episode struggling through "Vendetta" (about a vendetta!) and "Cabal" (about a cabal!), and quit while I owed only two days' worth of late fees. Worth watching (thus the 5 rating) only because it's very stylish to look at, and Rome and surrounding countryside look very pretty, and Rufus Sewell is a very attractive man (though rent "Cold Comfort Farm" if that's your draw). Also for the cool, sixties-tinged theme music. Otherwise, your average "Rockford Files" had more interesting cases.

Oh wait, there's option 3: you can begin every episode like Jackie Chan in "Rumble in the Bronx":

"Let's practice our English."


Yeah, I wish they'd gone for #3.