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"Butterfly Collectors"

HBO's "Butterfly Collectors" is British noir.

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Butterfly Collectors (Sunday and Monday, October 24 and 25; 9 to 10:30 p.m.; HBO Signature) is a mesmerizing amalgam of, say, Ruth Rendell and Ian McEwan -- a psychological police thriller and The Cement Garden. Asked to investigate the murder of a dealer in junk and drugs, burnt-out Manchester detective-inspector John McKeown (Pete Postlethwaite) decides that 17-year-old Dex (Jamie Draven) may have burglarized the crime scene but probably didn't do the homicidal deed. McKeown also finds himself drawn to Dex, his younger brother and sister, and their makeshift household on a council estate with a wonderful garden the teenager has fashioned out of furniture and shrubs stolen from public parks. The mother of these children apparently abandoned them, the father is dead, and McKeown has parenting issues of his own to resolve. He risks his tattered career to help orphans in a burning world.

Gradually, the disappearance of Dex's mother begins to look suspicious, the death of his father even more so, the children's behavior problematic, and the garden like a burial ground of guilty evidence. As McKeown swings wildly between magnetic compass points of cop paranoia and rescue-fantasy protectiveness, surprise twists pile up and class war breaks out. The teleplay by Paul Abbott (Reckless) and the direction by Jean Stewart (Cracker) are both Freudian-Gothic, and Postlethwaite (In the Name of the Father) is a dead-end character out of Samuel Beckett.


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