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DVD Review

DVD cover

Criminal Justice II


Starring: Maxine Peake, Matthew Macfadyen, Sophie Okonedo and Denis Lawson
Acorn Media UK
RRP: £19.99
Certificate: 18
Available 04 January 2010

Joe Miller is a barrister at the height of his professional powers. He is married to Juliet, who is fragile and isolated at home with their 13-year-old daughter Ella. When one night Juliet stabs Joe in their bed, she sets in motion a chain of events as hard and unbreakable as any the law can offer. As she travels through the criminal justice system under the constant scrutiny of police, prison officials and social services, her guilt isn’t questioned, but her motives are. As the case passes through family court towards a tense and unpredictable finale in the Crown Court, the terrifying blunt force of criminal justice is felt from the moment it is called into play right through to its terrible execution...


This is the second series of Criminal Justice and is spread over five episodes. It follows a woman, Juliet, who is accused of killing her husband, Joe, by sticking a knife in his chest while they are in bed. This is never in question, as we see the act in the first episode, but what is in question is her motives for what appears to be a cold and calculated act.

Is she really the victim of abuse at the hands of her now dead partner? Joe was a well respected barrister and everyone who knew him agrees that he was an extremely mild and polite man who loved his wife and daughter. Even Ella, the 13-year-old daughter, finds it hard to believe that her mother was provoked to kill her father - she's never even seen the two argue.

The first episode sets the scene well with Juliet acting suspiciously before her husband comes home. All indications are that she's having an affair with a family friend. When we meet Joe he is patient with Juliet, who seems more than a little unhinged.

However, sadly, the opening episode does hint quite heavily that Juliet is sexually abused as Joe forces her to have anal sex when it's clear that she doesn't really want to. This, I felt, would have been something which should have been kept from the viewer until the final episode.

While the series builds well to the final conclusion, I did have a few issues with the writing. Without spoiling too much... The conclusion sees Juliet finally revealing what happened - however in a court of law it was surprising to see that the prosecution didn't interject to point out that this was information she has not provided in any of her statements. What she confesses is simply given and accepted as fact - when in reality the evidence neither confirms or refutes her claims.

The acting cannot be faulted. Maxine Peake puts in a very powerful performance as the central character of Juliet. Equally, Matthew Macfadyen's brief role as Joe is well played - he comes across as an incredibly likeable and caring husband and father. The only character I was disappointed by was DCI Bill Faber. While Denis Lawson is a great actor, I thought he was incredibly under used here.

Another interesting aspect was the inclusion of married officers Flo and Chris Sexton who end up totally at odds at the way the investigation is progressing.

Extras include five interviews with writer Peter Moffat, one for each episode, which represents an interesting companion to the series.


Darren Rea

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