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REVIEW: The Chicago Code

By Chuck Sudo in Arts & Entertainment on Feb 7, 2011 5:00PM

Delroy Lindo (from left), Jennifer Beals and Jason Clarke star in The Chicago Code. (Photo Credit: Fox Television/Peter Sorel)

Tonight's premiere of The Chicago Code (8 p.m. on WFLD FOX 32) wastes no time using voice-overs and flashbacks to great effect in establishing the character backgrounds and motivations of Chicago Police Superintendent Teresa Colvin (Jennifer Beals) and hotshot detective Jarek Wysocki (Jason Clarke) to root out crime on the streets, in the police houses and in the City Hall of Shawn Ryan's (The Shield) fictionalized version of Our Town.

For Colvin, it was watching everyone from precinct captains to the mob slowly bleed the profits of her father's ultimately failed hardware store dry and the family fallout that resulted from that. Wysocki, meanwhile, comes from a family of Polish cops whose father reminded him that "the moment I felt safe to remember I was a dumb Polack as capable as the next idiot to get his head shot off.” Words to live by as Wysocki negotiates with a perp during a high-speed chase underneath the "L" tracks with a gun pointed at him. Wysocki is the prototypical lone wolf detective, unable to keep a partner for longer than a few months at a time. The one partner he could keep — Colvin — had eyes on the Superintendent's office.

When Colvin's request for funding of a task force to investigate corruption in City Hall is denied by the powerful Alderman Ronin Gibbons (a delightfully oily Delroy Lindo), Colvin takes matters into her own hands, setting up a unofficial task force with Wysocki and his talented young partner Caleb Evers (Friday Night Lights' Matt Lauria) to take over cases they feel will get Colvin closer to her target: Gibbons.

Ryan and co-writer Tim Minear could probably write this type of cop drama in their sleep. But it's a testament to their research that they not only use the city to good effect on camera, but get the tenor of the local dialogue largely right. They write some depth into what could have been a one-note character in Wysocki, and Clarke has moments to show that he isn't just another stressed out cop who drinks his troubles away and fucks his ex-wife on the sly while engaged to a much younger woman. He also worries about his rookie cop niece Vonda (Devin Kelley) and her ambitious partner Isaac Joiner (Todd Williams).

Beals, nearly 30 years after Flashdance, still looks stunning in either police blues or working business suits. But her attractiveness effectively conceal a steely resolve as her Teresa Colvin character quickly exerts her independence from Alderman Gibbons while becoming a quick study in the lesson that altruism alone won't rid the police department of the "hundred oxygen thieves who make (her) other 10,000 cops look bad.”

It's Lindo's Ronin Gibbons that is the glue that holds it all together. Whether planting seeds that a cop killed in the line of duty may not receive benefits because he gave up his vest to Colvin, blackmailing an Irish mob boss or entrapping Colvin's chief of staff in later episodes, Gibbons is a kingmaker in tailor-made suits. The chess match between Gibbons and Colvin quickly intensifies over the first three episodes and provides the fuel to drive the plot along. It the other episodes follow suit, The Chicago Code will prove to be a worthy successor to 24 in FOX's Monday night lineup.