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Spenser: Small Vices (1999)

Rita Fiore hires Spenser to determine if two-time loser Ellis Alves really did kill a college coed. Soon everybody wants him off the case, from the investigating officer to the parents of ... See full summary »



(novel), (teleplay)
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Cast overview, first billed only:
Grey Man / Rugar
Partner #1
Ellis Alves
Mrs. Henderson
Scott Wickware ...
Tommy Miller
Vinny Vella ...
Glenda Baker McMartin (as Lara Boyd Rhodes)


Rita Fiore hires Spenser to determine if two-time loser Ellis Alves really did kill a college coed. Soon everybody wants him off the case, from the investigating officer to the parents of the dead girl's boyfriend; and a professional hitman named Rugar is trying to kill him. Written by Jeff Cross <blackjac_1998@yahoo.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Crime | Drama | Mystery

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

18 July 1999 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Robert B. Parker's Small Vices  »

Filming Locations:

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Joe Mantegna was Parker's personal choice for the role of Spenser. He often said he was.dissatisfied with Robert Urich in the role most likely due to his young age. See more »


Rita Fiore: So who shows up here last spring at my firm? My old adversary, Marcy Vance. And as soon as we're reintroduced, she starts in on me about Ellis Alves. He was framed. She was too green to conduct a proper defense. He was the victim of racial discrimination.
Spenser: If she's right, somebody else did it. And got away with it.
Rita Fiore: Uh-huh.
Spenser: So there's more to this than flashing your legs at me to remind me of what I missed.
Rita Fiore: Well, that's the primary purpose.
See more »


Followed by Walking Shadow (2001) See more »

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User Reviews

A new look at a good series
20 July 1999 | by (Florida, USA) – See all my reviews

I remember watching the "Spenser: For Hire" tv series with Robert Urich and Avery Brooks. I loved Urich's refined approach to the character and Avery Brooks played the sidekick "Hawk" as one smooth, tough, powerful character (in fact, he played it so well that they made a spin-off tv show based on Hawk). The show was a success for the network and was popular as an action series. There was a suggestion of romance between Spenser and "D.A. Silverman", but after the first few episodes they were nothing more than friends and professional associates, and the focus shifted from developing their romance to giving us gunfights and car chases.

Joe Mantegna is a terrific actor, and in the role of Spenser he brings a darker, more sinister approach to the character which is interesting and certainly gives Spenser more depth. He does a good job showing us the tough side of Spenser, as well as the sensitive, romantic side (and I don't mean a la "James Bond"). Its the sort of duality that is so often missing in action characters.

Marcia Gay Harden as D.A. Silverman brings a more romantic and sensuous characterization to the role, which was missing in the tv series due to strict network censorship. Silverman is still intelligent and is still one tough attorney, but she also has a feminine side. There's one scene that's particularly steamy, but it really defines the relationship of the two characters and works well in the context of the story.

Like most hard-boiled detective stories, the detective finds himself surrounded by women who constantly throw themselves at him, and Mantegna does a good job playing these scenes for their somewhat comedic potential. If nothing else, the racy (and very successful) series "NYPD Blue" has opened the gates for tv networks to take more risks in showing non-sexual nudity, and "Small Vices" has benefitted from it tremendously, allowing the actors to have more intimate moments (including a brief nude scene where we see an actresses' posterior as she tries to seduce Spenser in his office). Knowing that Spenser has a strong relationship with Silverman, we can see why he would rebuff so many advances by other beautiful women. We know who owns his heart, and unlike the tv show version, we know why.

Comparing the film to the tv show, I prefer Brooks' portrayal of the Hawk character. It was just such a powerful role that he stole just about every scene he was in. I can still remember the way he said "Spens-SUH!" Urich played a good action character, but Mantegna shows us much more depth and has a bit more edginess. And Marcia Gay Harden is a dead ringer for the actress (her name escapes me) that played D.A. Silverman, but the tv version of Silverman never "nursed Spenser back to health" (if you know what I mean) after he was gravely wounded by a hitman's attack. Kudos to A&E (Arts And Entertainment) for bringing us a new "Spenser" mystery.

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