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Law & Order: Criminal Intent: The Premiere Episode (2001) – DVD Review

Law and Order: Criminal Intent: Premiere Episode DVD


Created by Dick Wolf
Written by Rene Balcer, based on a story by Dick Wolf
Directed by Jean DeSegonzac
Starring Vincent D’Onofrio, Kathryn Erbe, Jamey Sheridan, Courtney B. Vance, Jake Weber


  • Pilot episode for the original Law and Order series
  • Law and Order making of featurette
  • Criminal Intent: The Beginning featurette

Released by: Universal.
Rating: NR.
Region: 1
Anamorphic: N/A; appears in its original 1.33:1 format.

My Advice: Wait for the boxed set. Or turn on the TV.

[ad#longpost]If you do something not just bad, but downright naughty, expect to meet the folks at New York City’s Major Case Squad. Bad enough is Detective Alexandra James (Erbe), who’s disarmingly tough and won’t tolerate a lot of bullshit. But you’re screwed if you run into Detective Robert Goren (D’Onofrio). He’s pretty much every detective you’ve ever read about rolled into one big package. Very little gets past him, which is a good thing–because in this first little adventure of theirs, a guy named Carl Atwood (Weber) has decided to do a little creative breaking and entering…and waltz away with millions in diamonds. And for the icing on the cake, he’s left some corpses behind him.

The problem with being disgusted at the idea of another Law and Order show is pretty basic: they’re all so damned good. This time, they’ve played around with the formula a little. As you’re probably aware, on the original, you get a half-hour with the detectives and then another half-hour with the DA’s office, essentially. Here, you get face time with the criminals normally before you even see the police. So it’s not a matter of whether or not they’re going to get caught–but how…unless you’re Goren’s personal Moriarty. But that’s in later episodes.

The strength here is in the four main characters, make no mistake. D’Onofrio’s quirk-engine is going full force, and as a result, his Goren is eminently believable. Granted, the show’s writers give him plenty to work with, as he has many a mysterious friend on many a mysterious level of the city, and he also knows just about freaking everything. The series seems to be so dependent on Goren, however, I’m a little worried as to what will happen with D’Onofrio eventually decides to head back to Feature Film Land. But no matter and so be it.

Still, the show is becoming more of an ensemble piece as time goes on, but here in the premiere episode, which is what we’ve got, it’s Vince’s show. However, Erbe is impressive in her supporting role, and–as is pointed out on the bonus featurette–she’s able to deliver exposition like nobody’s business. Sheridan, Needcoffee fave, is perfect as their captain and Vance is a bit of a hardass, which is a nice foil to Goren’s madness. Tight, tight cast. Again, hard to see what will happen when eventually somebody leaves.

Bonuses on the disc are the featurette from the Law and Order first season boxed set, and a new featurette regarding the origins of the characters and story of Criminal Intent. It’s a short but sweet look at the series, and features some great moments: the best of which is creator Wolf accidentally saying “fuck” as in “What the fuck is he doing?” as in a director asking what in the hell D’Onofrio thought he was up to. So it’s worth watching. Also included is the pilot from the original series, again from the L&O boxed set.

Now, only the hardcores will want this disc because, let’s face it, eventually the first season of the series will be out on DVD, and then you’ll get all of this and more. And you can’t throw a rock at your cable listings and not hit some version of Law and Order. So I say wait, although it’s nice to get a glimpse at what will eventually be on that Criminal Intent boxed set.