My first experience with Jesse Stone was one I don’t regret. The characters were well written, witty banter in places where it felt natural and the photography was absolutely stunning. Tom Selleck, from the moment he walked on screen, owned the role of Jesse Stone as if he was born for it and displayed just how far he’d come in terms of acting prowess. And for those interested in a super short review, I can gladly say that “Jesse Stone: Night Passage” continues these traditions.
“Jesse Stone: Night Passage” can actually be seen as the first movie in the series, at least chronologically, as it details Jesse Stone’s arrival in Paradise and his first case there. Having driven all the way from California for his interview, Jesse is ready to start over. And despite showing up to his interview stinking of alcohol and being brutally honest about why he was let go from the police force in Los Angeles, he lands the job as Paradise’s new police chief. Something that has Jesse worried. Because, as he puts it himself, he wouldn’t have hired him. Soon he finds himself caught up in a web of lies connected to the previous police chief and the mob working out of Boston.
“Night Passage” aims to show us the origin of Jesse Stone as we know him from the first movie. All the cast members return with the addition of Saul Rubinek and Stephen Baldwin. Robert Harmon is back once again though the cinematography is done by David Gribble.
Much like in the previous movie, the audience is clued into the mystery long before Stone is and it, again, leads to a bit of a weak finale. But much like in “Stone Cold”, the mystery is not the important part but instead the dive into Jesse Stone’s character is taken to another level. We’re given more of an insight into Jesse Stone’s past and his reasons for coming to Paradise in the first place. This is a man teetering on the brink of self-destruction, not quite able to stop himself from doing stupid things. Whether it’s kicking a suspect in the groin, driving cross country for a job he might not even get or drinking himself into oblivion every lonely night, it’s a man deeply unhappy with his life.
But the charming, intelligent Jesse we know from the previous movie is still there and despite his flaws, it doesn’t take long for the town inhabitants to come to trust him. His brutal honesty, though at first off-putting, quickly wins many over and earns him a reputation as a ‘stone cold’ police chief who doesn’t necessarily follow the law to the letter.
This, with his police intuition, is what puts him on a collision course with Stephen Baldwin’s character, Joe Genest and let me tell you, few people play sleaze as well as the Baldwins. Call it genius casting, but Stephen Baldwin fits so well as Joe Genest that it’s easy to forget the many low-budget direct-to-DVDs he’s been in.
Saul Rubinek plays the town council-member Hastings Hathaway, a slimy banker who seems intent on keeping Jesse Stone as the chief, thus sort of implicating himself in the conspiracy. But over the course of the movie he’s painted as a sympathetic character struggling with his own life and simply made some really bad choices that kept spiraling out of control.
But many other characters also get their due, including Viola Davis’ Molly Crane who is none to happy with Stone as her new boss. A character we saw in the last movie who never got much opportunity to impress was Kohl Sudduth’s Luther Simpson, a young officer who this time around takes a far more prominent role and quickly comes to look up to Stone. We learn how he got his nickname ‘Suitcase’ and acts as one of the first characters to trust Jesse Stone first, taking him on as a sort of mentor.
The side stories are also integrated far better than before, used far more efficiently to give us more of an insight into the town and the many characters. It’s also tied into the main plot in a more seamless fashion than in the previous movie and it’s better for it.
Just like in the last movie, the cinematography continues to impress and where ever they decided to shoot the film really works in their favor. The gorgeous sea-side setting is cranked up the max and even the murder scenes are shot with an eye for beauty, making the ugly that much more beautiful. Unfortunately I did notice a bit more standard shots than usual and the freeze-frame editing really stood out as “made for TV”-cheap. In all, that’s really my biggest complaint about the movie as it took me out of it every time. Which is sort of the point, giving the channels a good place to put a commercial, but it still pissed me off as I watching it on DVD.
In the end, there’s nothing I can really say here that I didn’t say in my review of Stone Cold. It’s pretty much that movie but simply better. The writing is a notch up, the acting all around better and the plot better sewn together. Though the editing aggravated me at times it’s not enough to rob it of my recommendation, far from it. If you want to give Jesse Stone a chance, this might be a good place to start.