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Raising Cain - Just the Facts, Ma'am
Classy new CBC drama sticks to police basics

Tony Atherton
The Ottawa Citizen

Bernie Zukerman has been wringing drama from Canadian headlines and history books for the
past 15 years, producing Gemini-winning movies and miniseries like Net Worth, Dieppe,
The Sleep Room and Million Dollar Babies.

But it wasn't his first job in TV. He spent the first 10 years of his career as an award-
winning producer and director of documentaries at the fifth estate and The Journal.

You can see the influence of that experience in everything he's done since. In a way,
Zukerman has never made anything but current affairs programming.

Until now, that is.

popular drama genre on English-language TV. It aspires to gritty realism, but is not
based on fact. It does not explore issues or recall real events, except tangentially.
It's about entirely fictitious characters in a plot cut from the whole cloth. It is
unabashed fiction, and, in its way, as good as the best of Zukerman's docudramas.

"I love police stories, I love detective stories," says Zukerman. "I watch a lot of them,
I read a lot of them, and I realized that I never really entered that domain and
that's really what led to the development of this."

Chasing Cain is the first of what is intended as a series of movies about veteran Toronto
Police Det. Kazlowski (Peter Outerbridge) and Det. Denise McGoogan (Alberta Watson),
recently promoted to the homicide unit after a cancer scare.

Kazlowski is an intuitive cop, charming in his way but a bit of a loner, and not at all
pleased with the imposition of what he see as an untried female partner. McGoogan
detects his coldness and reflects it right back at him. Their relationship is
entirely professional, though by the end of their first case together, professionally
respectful.

The case is a drive-by shooting, the victim a woman who works as a receptionist at a
nearby abortion clinic. At first, Kazlowski and McGoogan think she was targeted by
anti-abortion activists, but further investigation reveals another possible motive.

The woman was Croatian and had married a Serb, much to his parents' chagrin. Evidence
suggests she may have wanted to leave the marriage. Is that grounds for murder?

The answer to that provides the meat of Chasing Cain, a solid police procedural that
eschews such latter-day cop-show filagree as personal drama and precinct gossip.
Screenwriter Andrew Rai Berzins' approach is lifted from Dragnet: Just the facts,
ma'am.

But while Kazlowski and McGoogan are about as understated as Sgts. Friday and Gannon,
there's nothing Dragnet-like about their pervading cynicism. It's a contrast to the
bulldog eagerness of the neighbourhood detective attached to them to do footwork.
Mark Wilson is a wonderful foil as Percy Harris, a middle-aged guy tickled to find
himself doing real police work.

The investigation itself is the star of this movie, how the detectives put together the
pieces, and then make them stick. What makes Chasing Cain compelling is the same
thing that makes an episode of Law and Order watchable: deft dialogue, and star turns
by almost everyone in the cast, from Alex Karzis playing a smooth-talking Serb, to
Emily Hampshire (last seen as a frightened teen in Scorn) as a chippy but strung-out
young hooker.

If the action is bare bones, the film's look is not. Director Jerry Ciccoritti (he last
worked with Zukerman on the NHL docudrama Net Worth) doesn't stint in recreating
Toronto's vibrant streetlife. There is never any doubt where this film is set. And if
there was, the script's abundance of pointed references -- to Roncesvalles Avenue,
Harry Rosen's and the Ontario Student Assistance Plan, for instance -- would quickly
make things clear.

"I love going into a real neighbourhood of Toronto and using Toronto as Toronto," says
Zukerman, whose previous movies have been shot everywhere but his hometown.

While Zukerman has another Chasing Cain movie set to go before the cameras this summer,
there's no suggestion he's giving up on docudramas. He hopes to soon start shooting
on a movie about the RCMP's investigation of serial murderer Clifford Olson.

Meanwhile he's sniffing around the case of Cherrylle Dell, the Killaloe woman charged
with poisoning her husband with anti-freeze-laced wine. He's already signed on Ottawa
Citizen reporter Peter Hum, who covered the trial, as a consultant, and commissioned
playwright George F. Walker to see what he can make of the trial transcripts.

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