Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders
The FBI's International Response Team manage to travel the world, all without leaving the confines of a Hollywood backlot.
It’s been nearly 30 years since Mission Impossible produced a rebooted production in Melbourne, using carefully-dressed corners of the city as foreign locales such as France, Greece and China.
At least they left the US.
But leaving US borders isn’t a priority for the ironically-titled Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders if the first episode is anything to go by. Now thanks to CGI and stock footage, it can seemingly do it all on the Hollywood backlot. But at a cost to its credibility.
The lear jet of the long-running Criminal Minds is now replaced by a much larger carrier that whisks the FBI’s International Response Team off to Thailand after a pair of young American girls go missing.
The team is headed up by Jack Garrett (Gary Sinise), who heads off with a skeleton crew of Matt Simmons (Daniel Henney) and Mae Jarvis (Annie Funke). Criminal Minds’ original Joe Mantegna appears briefly in a pointless cameo, as if to justify the franchise link.
While the plot surrounds two girls held hostage at Thai farm outside Bangkok I was frequently distracted by the shortcomings of the production. Many gave a cliché Hollywood version of the Orient, but some were ridiculous.
They bring their own 4WD, complete with Left Hand steering -but the Thai vehicles are not correctly RHS. There were plenty of conical bamboo hats (including in the city) in scenes frequently accompanied by Chinese-sounding music. The plane appeared to land in a coastal setting, not city, and a typhoon was reportedly over Cambodia before heading up the southern coast of Thailand (that’s quite an S bend path). I’m sure I saw Mt. Fuji somewhere in the stock footage too.
The FBI team worked to solve the case with Royal Thai Police -I will give them a pass on uniforms and Thai language from Korean-born actor Keong Sim (but not smart naming him Taksin, given he is the corrupt PM currently exiled from Thailand). However the FBI team showed considerable arrogance in dismissing local procedures, despite professing “They have a system, we have to respect it.”
It skips over reasons why the local force is incapable of addressing the crime. They even manage to find fresh footprints despite the flight time involved from US to Asia.
The core team, joined by linguistics specialist Clara Seger (Alana de la Garza), are carefully filmed in exteriors such as generic farmland or village street, with awkward green-screen driving and CGI-enhanced cityscapes.
But it wouldn’t be Criminal Minds without a Technical Analyst rooted to his monitors in the US. Here it is African-American geek “Monty” (Tyler James Williams), doing all the finger-fast work on the Unsubs.
Aside from the production errors and the bad dialogue (“Why do humans always find new ways of hurting one another?”) how does the episode stack up? Well the case wasn’t especially interesting, and there was a decided lack of tension throughout. Gary Sinise is the most grounded of the lot, working with a very thin script.
With a different country to feature every week I found myself wondering if its message will be that all foreigners are bad, or that it was an American villain all along. I can’t wait till the Australian episode, doubtless to chase a nasty outback killer nabbing hitchhikers. Maaaate!
It’s time to wind down Criminal Minds full stop. And for god’s sake, please buckle up and remain within your own borders.
Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders airs 9pm Monday on Seven.