Robert B. Parker‘s Jesse Stone (Tom Selleck) returned to television this past weekend, but sadly without his author’s voice. Written by Selleck and Michael Brandman Benefit of the Doubt continues to examine the the life of the recovering alcoholic police chief of Paradise, Massachusetts. Although the latest made-for-TV film delivers another strong character-centered story, the script is lacking the flair of Parker’s trademark wit.
Parker, best known for his Spenser novels, completed nine Jesse Stone novels before his death in 2010. The first four TV-movies were all based on Parker’s novels before the series took a different direction. I’m a little disappointed we haven’t seen the Blue Screen / High Profile crossover which pairs Jesse Stone with another of Parker’s detectives – Sunny Randall (who would be a plum role for any actress). Since these stories haven’t been tapped, I can only assume Selleck and his team may not have the rights to use the character.
The newest film, Benefit of the Doubt, starts out a little shaky with some dialogue between the new Paradise Police Chief (Jeff Geddis) and his deputy (Vito Rezza) before both are killed in a car bombing. Jesse is brought back on the job to investigate the case that appears to point to police corruption and organized crime. This means we’re in store for some fun back and forth with Captain Healy (Stephen McHattie) and a visit to mob boss Gino Fish (William Sadler).
Despite his obvious dislike for the man who took his job, Jesse slowly is able to piece together the mystery, avoid getting killed by a hired assassin, and romance his latest love interest Thelma (Gloria Reuben), as well as attempt to lure his former colleagues Rose (Kathy Baker) and Suitcase Simpson (Kohl Sudduth) back onto the job.
Although it starts a little shaky once Selleck gets on-screen, and back in his trademark PPD baseball cap, things noticeably pick up. Although the mystery is rather forgettable, the strength of the film is in the characters and conversations, particularly Jesse’s conversations with his psychiatrist (William Devane) and the women his life, Thelma, Rose, and Gino’s young and direct assistant Angela (Christine Tizzard).
It’s obvious Selleck enjoys the character, and even if the movie wastes far too much time on long camera shots which feel more like filler than cinematic artistry, there is plenty here for fans of Parker to enjoy. Although some may be confused with an odd twist involving Hasty (Saul Rubinek) that also makes a very large change to a longtime Spenser supporting character as well.