Robert B. Parker’s private detective Spenser searches for the missing wife of a friend. Using his special gifts as a super sleuth, Spenser soon discovers that the woman was abducted by a former lover, now a mob boss. But knowing who took her is only half the battle. How to get her out alive, ah, now that’s going to be tough, even for the hardboiled shamus. “Thin Air” premieres on Aand E, 9/12/00. Check your local listings for time.
Parker, author of the Spencer book series, has done thoughtful and sophisticated work with his own screenplay. The writer proves that the detective mystery is still involving when done with style and taste. His P.I. is played delightfully by Mr. Mantegna, who incorporates a balance of wit, moral toughness and a slight touch of pathos. Mantegna is one of those actors who gives a solid performance every time he goes before the cameras. Here, he’s the combination of brawn and brain we haven’t seen in this genre since Robert Mitchum’s Philip Marlowe in “Farewell My Lovely.” Alas, I am unable to recommend it for family viewing due to the violence that comes uncomfortably close to excessive. Several people are killed at close range and there is always the threat of explosiveness as the TV-movie deals with crime lords and drug dealers. Other adult subject matter such as an implied lesbian relationship is handled discreetly without any sexual situations. And although it is made clear that the lead and his lady friend are in a sexual relationship, the scenes always break away before anything happens. The film has a few mild obscenities, but it lacks the profanity associated with most of today’s big screen mystery capers. However, the kidnapped woman, in a state of panic, does shout out Jesus’ name. Now, we have all probably said things we are ashamed of, but when profanity is used on the screen, it defines the character. I consider this a profanity because she is not calling out for our Savior’s help, but merely using his name as an exasperated expletive.