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Crime gets complicated in cross-border drama

By Rich Heldenfels
Akron Beacon Journal

THE BRIDGE

10 p.m. Wednesday, FX

“The Bridge” is not a tidy little connection between two points, or even two sides of a story. It stretches and bends, bringing in new characters before you’ve gotten to know the older ones, spreading its narrative from police offices and grimy streets to dry stretches of land along the border between Mexico and the United States. Not even the body that begins its story is simple.

Premiering at 10 p.m. Wednesday on FX, the series follows the investigation of that body, left at the midpoint of a bridge between Juarez and El Paso, with part of it resting in the United States and part in Mexico – bringing in law enforcement from both sides. From Mexico comes detective Marco Ruiz (Demian Bichir), an honorable man trying to keep his job (and his life) while working among the cartels and their corrupt associates, some of whom are his co-workers. From the U.S. is Sonya Cross (Diane Kruger), an El Paso detective whose personal challenges include having Asperger’s syndrome. Each has rules, though not the same ones.

And they are part of a larger world that includes, among others, Ruiz’s wife, Alma (Catalina Sandino Moreno); Cross’ boss Hank Wade (Ted Levine); Charlotte Millright (Annabeth Gish), a wealthy ranch wife who is suddenly widowed when her husband suffers a heart attack while on the Mexican side of the border; Daniel Frye (Matthew Lillard), a nasty and troubled newspaper reporter (is there any other kind?) who is drawn into coverage of the case, and others who seem to have interests in the outcome of the investigation.

All of that adds to the pushing and pulling of the central characters. But there are also points at which they step aside to reveal more about the supporting players: Frye’s approach to the case, for example, or how Millright is seen by her wealthy neighbors. There’s more than a little of “Traffic” at work here, although that film (and the miniseries that inspired it) moved more certainly forward.

“The Bridge” can at times be very good; Bichir, a best-actor Oscar nominee for “A Better Life,” is especially effective. It is also strong when it comes to the desperation of life along the border.

But “The Bridge” loves complexity too much, in the layers of Cross’ personality and in the variety of characters and stories it tries to juggle. Still, I was drawn into it, and well into the third episode still wanted to see where “The Bridge” was going.

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