TV Review: Jennifer Beals, Jason Clarke Define ‘The Chicago Code’

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CHICAGO – Is Rahm Emanuel taking notes? “The Chicago Code,” premiering on Fox TV on February 7th, exposes the underbelly of cops, bad guys and political corruption characteristic of the Windy City, and also has an intriguing cast and storytelling style. Television Rating: 3.5/5.0
Television Rating: 3.5/5.0

Jennifer Beals leads the way as Chicago police superintendent Teresa Colvin, whose honesty and dedication made her the youngest and first female top cop in the city’s history. Jason Clarke is Jarek Wysocki, a gritty street level detective who was once Colvin’s partner, and who has a reputation for no-nonsense policing. One of his main characteristics is that he can’t seem to tolerate new men, including his latest partner Caleb Evers (Matt Lauria). Overseeing them in city government is the powerful Alderman Gibbons (Delroy Lindo).

Superintendent Colvin is suspicious of Gibbons, and tries to form a task force to root out his misconduct. When the request is denied through city hall, Colvin takes matters into her own hands by enlisting the help of Wysocki. It is the murder of a woman in a park that points back to the alderman, as she was an accountant for a construction company with ties to both Gibbons and the Irish mob.

The Chicago Code Cast L-R: Delroy Lindo (Alderman Gibbons), Billy Lush (Liam), Matt Lauria (Evers), Jennifer Beals (Colvin), Jason Clarke (Wysocki), Devon Kelley (Vonda) and Todd Williams (Isaac)
The Chicago Code Cast L-R: Delroy Lindo (Alderman Gibbons), Billy Lush (Liam), Matt Lauria (Evers), Jennifer Beals (Colvin), Jason Clarke (Wysocki), Devon Kelley (Vonda) and Todd Williams (Isaac)
Photo Credit: Kharen Hill/Fox

It will take all of the resources of Wysocki and his new partner to crack the “code” of Chicago’s dirty business. He recruits his police officer niece Vonya (Devin Kelley) and her partner Isaac (Todd Williams) to his team, and uses an undercover informant, Liam (Billy Lush) to infiltrate the seamier side of both the Irish mob and Alderman Gibbon’s connection to them.

The city depicted in The Chicago Code seems to be going back to its Al Capone roots. There are plenty of bullets flying and corpses as a result, why not a nice overview of the many cultural offerings? It is an easy shorthand to revert to an Irish mafia and crooked politicians in association with the Windy City, which at times gave the show an air of a 1940s police movie melodrama.

But it was Jason Clarke as Wysocki that provided the spark, controlling the atmosphere with a believable spin as the moral and streetwise cop. This is in contrast to his partner played by Matt Lauria, who was a bit too pretty-boy to imagine as a police detective. Jennifer Beals was still finding her character in the pilot, not expressing initially enough heft and fortitude in the superintendent role. But she is a Chicago native, and it was fun to hear that south side accent come out.

The multi-layered narrative and style of story rendering is strong. It is established early that Delroy Lindo’s Alderman Gibbon’s is corrupt, but his power keeps him above the fray. This sets up an interesting cat-and-mouse game between his office and the superintendent’s task force. Director Charles McDougall makes nice use of compact flashbacks to reveal the back story of characters, which allows for immediate empathy. The pace of the pilot episode is a bit quick, with some auctioneer style line readings, yet it maintains a decent integrity.

Partners in Crime Fighting: Matt Lauria and Jason Clarke of ‘Chicago Code’
Partners in Crime Fighting: Matt Lauria and Jason Clarke of ‘The Chicago Code’
Photo Credit: Peter Sorel/Fox

The city of Chicago itself is used quite effectively. For every cliché wide shot of the skyline and the el train, there is some nice neighborhood stuff, mostly in the environs of the foreclosed apartments and vacant lots on the west and south sides. Some funny Cubs vs. White Sox banter is displayed, with Wysocki of course being the Sox fan having some choice words for his partner’s love of the Cubbies.

Hopefully, show creator Shawn Ryan (who previously produced “The Shield”) can evolve “The Chicago Code” into its own identity and establish some variation in the cop drama, in time to create some body and soul for the City of Big Shoulders.

”The Chicago Code” premieres Monday, February 7th at 9pm EST/8pm CST on Fox TV. Check local listings for channel location. Featuring Delroy Lindo, Billy Lush, Matt Lauria, Jennifer Beals and Jason Clarke, produced by Nicholas Bradley, Tim Minear and Shawn Ryan. senior staff writer Patrick McDonald

Senior Staff Writer

© 2011 Patrick McDonald,

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