John Seven | Viewer's Discretion: British thriller will have viewers on the edge of their seats

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'BODYGUARD' (NETFLIX)

If you want tense, exciting, hard-to-predict crime conspiracy stories that keep you on the edge of your seat, British television writer Jed Mercurio should be your go-to guy. His series, "Line of Duty," a labyrinthine display of tension and amazing guest performances in the setting of a police internal affairs investigation unit, is loads of thrills and can be seen on Hulu and AcornTV.

In "Bodyguard," Mercurio brings back one of his best "Line of Duty" performers, Keely Hawes, here as a jingoistic U.K. Home Secretary, who is making a power play for prime minister, as she is protected by new bodyguard Police Sergeant David Budd (Richard Madden). You may remember Madden as Robb Stark in "Game of Thrones," but it's here in "Bodyguard" that he really gets to show his acting chops.

Budd is your typical law enforcement mess of a human, a PTSD-suffering war vet whose marriage has fallen apart, thanks to his over-drinking, and whose obsessiveness with his ex-wife is matched only by the attention to detail he gives to his work. On his new assignment, it becomes apparent that someone is gunning for the Home Secretary and Budd finds himself in the middle of a wider conspiracy that he has to unpack, and quickly, in order to get himself out of trouble.

It's a Hitchockian set-up that plays to all of Budd's talents, and creates a twisting plot that functions like an emotional maze for the frantic bodyguard to have to endure. Like "Line of Duty," this is an exciting and fun thriller that might not add up to any important statement, politically or dramatically, but draws you in so energetically that you'll happily mop the sweat off your brow as each episode ends.

'NICO 1988' (AMAZON, APPLE, GOOGLE PLAY, HULU, VUDU, YOUTUBE)

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In musical experience, I have not cared very much about Nico. Neither her work with the Velvet Underground, nor her subsequent solo work, has touched me really. I barely encountered any of it in my life and when I did, I just shrugged. What made me watch "Nico 1988" was Trine Dyrholm, the wonderful Danish actress playing the title role. I had seen her in the dark Danish family series, "The Legacy," and that was really all I needed to open me up to any movie she might be in.

"Nico 1988" is not a career-spanning biopic, but rather a later-in-life mood piece that follows the late singer during the last couple years of her life, in which she tours Europe with a young band in an effort to, at best, come back, but at the very least, remind the world of her relevance and artistry. But a long-time drug addiction, a love life often defined by poor judgement, a combustible relationship with her son and a hair-trigger ego, as well as some possibly unsafe venues in Iron Curtain countries, make life on the road very bumpy.

This is a sympathetic portrayal, but not one that tries to obscure the warts. It wants you to appreciate Nico on her own terms, accept the weaknesses as part of the person, and with Dyrholm in the role, it does exactly that, turning any given deficit into something to admire, even when it fails.

The film also puts Nico's music in context and, at least for me, ushered me into a place of more appreciation. Sometimes that's what it takes for music that is not coming from a typical place, and in many ways, Nico's efforts feel like examples of outsider music. The film doesn't stray from that concept, though it doesn't specifically push it either — rather, it aligns the music with the person making the music, and creating a situation where you cannot separate them. As an expression of personhood, the music becomes almost impossible to critique.

As musical biopics go, "Nico 1988" reminds me most of Alex Cox's rollicking "Sid and Nancy," just a bit calmer due to the subject's age. In both case it pulls you into the dysfunction and, in doing so, makes you see the full vista these people live in. There's despair, of course, but also charm. Nico, as it turns out, lived as human a life as any of us.

John Seven is a writer in North Adams who has never been satisfied by movies and television that are easy to come by. He likes to do some digging. Find him online at johnseven.me.


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