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Reviews & Ratings for
"Zen" More at IMDbPro »

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Index 24 reviews in total 

49 out of 54 people found the following review useful:

Absolutely Brilliant

Author: gotmyorangecrush from Detroit
12 January 2011

I have to say, I have really been taken by surprise by this series. I really enjoyed the first episode but, it was the 2nd episode, Cabal, that really got me hooked. First and foremost I absolutely love the extended running time. At 1:30 minutes, without commercials, its literally double the average running time for drama's and ultimately it gives the show the ability to be far more character driven. I honestly don't think I have ever seen a series before that had this kind of running time and ultimately I think it speaks to the kind of show its trying to be.

Zen is really a throwback to old school TV. No funky cinematography, no shaky cameras, no funky camera angles, no high tech police gadgetry etc. In fact, I don't think I even remember seeing a single computer. Cell phones are about as high tech as this show has gotten thus far. The locations are simply stunning and that is no surprise given that it takes place in Rome. I openly admit that was initially one of the things that I was most excited about as I absolutely love Rome. Its hands down one of my favorite cities in the world and its a perfect setting for this series, especially with the approach that they have taken.

Of course if your going to have a show in Rome then fashion simply must play a role and the show certainly doesn't disappoint in this regard. The wardrobe choices are impeccable especially in regards to Rufus Sewell's suits. He looks outstanding in practically every scene. Then you have Caterina Murino and she looks absolutely fabulous as well. Her outfits are classy and while there is definitely a very sexy edge to her look, its not overtly sexy. She just looks stunning and they look absolutely dynamite together.

As for the stories, thus far its definitely been one of the weaker aspects of the show but they have still been entertaining and in regards to story, the 2nd episode was definitely an improvement over the first episode. I love the whole Cabal storyline and hopefully it will be a reoccurring theme with this show. It fits perfectly with the shows setting in Rome and while these types of detective shows always have different stories with each episode, there is usually a main storyline that takes place alongside the solving of individual cases. I think The Cabal would be a great choice in this regard.

Overall I have really enjoyed the first 2 episodes and cant wait for more. This show is just such a breath of fresh air compared to the usual detective riff raff that is practically everywhere you look. Hopefully Zen can pull in enough viewers as it would be a real shame to see this show end prematurely.

Definitely a solid 9 out of 10 thus far.

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46 out of 54 people found the following review useful:

Terrific smooth drama...

Author: ( from Thailand
9 January 2011

The idea of taking a team of British actors and placing them in a crime fighting scenario in another European country can have mixed results. It worked with Maigret and it didn't work with Wallander.

It DOES work with Zen. Whether or not it adheres to Michael Dibdin's novels I don't know because I haven't read them.

Visually this series is a treat. The men are impeccably dressed and all look like James Bond! The stories themselves aren't going to win any awards but the journey is nonetheless an enjoyable and satisfactory one.

If you're worn down by the usual shaky-cam stupidity of most modern trashy UK drama featuring the hyper-melodramatic plot lines and scripts with the usual, overly used actors and you need a reassuringly glossy and understated look into a world of low key drama then Zen is for you.

Not masterfully intelligent but neither is it insultingly cringe-worthy.

ZEN is a thoroughly enjoyable drama and a refreshing change of pace.

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36 out of 38 people found the following review useful:

I was expecting something good, but not this good!

Author: TheLittleSongbird from United Kingdom
23 January 2011

When I first tuned into Zen I was expecting something interesting. Not only did it achieve that, but I wasn't expecting something this good so early on in the year.

Zen is just terrific, I loved the concept and I think the programme lived up to this concept. The writing is witty, fresh and thought-provoking, the soundtrack is good, the episodes are all well paced and I think the perfect length too, the stories were both perplexing and interesting- the first was the best in terms of plot construction- and the whole series is very well directed.

The characters are also credible, I just love how charismatic, brooding and cool Aurelio Zen is. The acting is very good, Rufus Sewell is just perfect in the lead meeting his character traits with aplomb. Plus Caterina Murino is stunning beyond words. The real revelation was the production values, as good as the photography, lighting and costumes are the scenery and colours are just breathtaking.

Overall, Zen was brilliant, I had high hopes and got more than I expected and I mean that in a good way. I don't know about anyone else but I also thought it was a very refreshing change of pace, however it is deserving of more episodes if and when it comes back, the three episodes while wholly satisfying still left me wanting more. 10/10 Bethany Cox

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41 out of 50 people found the following review useful:

Love it

Author: ph-nijman from Amsterdam, The netherlands
10 January 2011

Wow, a treat for the eye and brain. Beautiful locations, la bella figura, good soundtrack, a 70-ish leader and colors that remind of The American (the one with Clooney's buttocks). Full of not obvious clichés as the mama and the 'damn-the-rules' driving.

Rufus Sewell plays Aurelio Zen with an understated coolness that is nearly Bond-like. Although uncorrectable there is always a twist in the end. The suits are sharp, one hand never leaves his pocket and he strikes a pose when entering a room. Not when there are women in the room who he has to zip up, then he is the fumbling schoolboy. Caterina Murino as Tania Moretti, the office secretary all the men drool about, has a nearly chique appearance. But, the cleavages are to low, the skirts to tight and the top button with to much tension.

The comparison between Kenneth Brannaugh's Wallander end Sewell's Zen is has to be made. Both play a foreign detective in the original setting. But in Wallander they cut back on the office lightning to create suspense and a gloomy, Swedish atmosphere. In Zen everything is vibrating with sunlight and warmth.

Love it, we want more, we want more.

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32 out of 36 people found the following review useful:

A very good approximation of Italy.

Author: scovazze from Italy
12 January 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I'm Italian, so I was curious to see the show because it claimed to portray "real" Italy, not the oh-it's-so-lovely-in-Tuscany crap. Pretty accurate. I won't go into the detective plots, which are average at best and full of implausibilities (also, the reality of Italy in 2010, with Berlusconi in charge and all that it implies, surpasses any fiction... :-/ ); I won't complain if a guy throws himself from a balcony of a prostitute in full daylight and it doesn't make the news or cause a new investigation: the show thrives on visuals, on quirky dialogue and on its actors. And Rome itself looks like the most beautiful place in the known universe - which it basically is. Some scenes are so lovingly shot in golden light that you nearly feel the heat in those narrow alleys, in the eternal Italian early Summer that Zen probably inhabits.

Rufus Sewell is absolutely Italian, totally rocking the suit-and-sunglasses look (if you think he looks pretentious walking around like that, try walking through central Rome any day; guys like that are a dime a dozen here). He also nails the body language - in CABAL, the face he makes when Arianna tells him she is "a lady of the night" is really "in a different language" compared to how British actors would ever react, and the scenes with his Mom (who by the way is a French actress but nobody apparently noticed the different accent) perfectly express the way Italians feel forever 12 when under the scrutiny of their Mamma.

I didn't mind that each character spoke in their own accent, it doesn't distract much; however Caterina Murino is really unintelligible, heck, I have much less of an accent and I'm not even in showbiz. However she just needs to be there, look beautiful and wear improbable garish blouses (THOSE are really fictional, no Italian woman in an official environment like a police department would wear them; definitely some male fantasy of what a desirable Mediterranean woman must look like). She doesn't seem to have much personality yet, we'll see if it gets better later. I wonder what is the point of Francesco Quinn's character, but I also guess they're just introducing him for the next stories.

Zen (yes it's a real Venetian name, it sounds more like Tzenn) is no hero and is actually often rather "sfigato", which is a refreshing change from all those heroic American cops or the tortured musings of a Wallander. It will be really funny when this show - a co-production - gets dubbed into Italian and shown on our TV. People will find all kinds of faults with it. But you see? I'm being really Italian! I already see the worst-case scenario! People like me are the kind of world Zen lives in, and he's perfect in it.

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25 out of 28 people found the following review useful:

Great BBC series about an Italian cop

Author: Tweekums from United Kingdom
16 January 2011

After the success of the BBC version of the Swedish police drama 'Wallander' it appears that they decided to make another police show set on the continent, this time trading Scandinavia for the warmth of Italy. Set in Rome this series follows three cases for Detective Aurelio Zen. It quickly becomes apparent that he is one of the few honest cops but that doesn't stop politicians leaning on him to solve cases that serve them whether or not justice prevails. Zen isn't perfect though; he is having an illicit affair with a woman he works with for starters. The stories themselves are gripping and there are plenty of suspects for Zen and the viewer to wonder who did it.

This series is very different to Wallander, he isn't full of angst or suffering family problems; he just gets on with the job while enjoying life and being dressed in a very sharp suit; Rufus Sewell is great in the role. The series is filmed in a way that conveys the heat of the setting so that even though most of the actors speak with English accents nobody would think they were meant to be British. The decision not to have non-Italian cast members speaking in mock Italian accents was wise; ever since 'Allo 'Allo false foreign accents have seemed humorous rather than clever. It is just a pity that the series was only three episodes long; I hope it will be successful enough to warrant further series in the future.

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24 out of 28 people found the following review useful:

The BBC get it right for once

Author: Leofwine_draca from United Kingdom
11 May 2011

And then they go and axe it. Typical.

ZEN was a three-part miniseries adaptation of of the literary detective Aurelio Zen. The BBC took the decision to shoot in English and not bother with dodgy accents, which works well.

I found all three episodes to be smart, stylish and above average thrillers. Each episode contains danger, intrigue, political machinations, romance and humour. Rufus Sewell is perfectly cast and plays Zen to the hilt, and he's supported by an excellent list of actors headed by the lovely Caterina Munro.

Add in some classy music and beautiful locations and you have a winning series. Of the three episodes, the first, VENDETTA, is the strongest, featuring a murderous assassin; the second, CABAL, gets tied up in government conspiracies and shady suited figures; the third and weakest, RANSOM, features Zen thrown into the middle of a kidnapping where nothing is what it seems.

It's a shame we'll never find out who was at the other end of the phone but nonetheless, ZEN made for great viewing.

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22 out of 26 people found the following review useful:

Italian panache made with English subtlety.

Author: Fitz from United Kingdom
16 January 2011

There's always a risk when adapting the written word to a screenplay; the risk that the nuances of the one will be lost when rendered to the other. Fortunately the BBC has a fine pedigree when transferring both book & play to the screen (from 'The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy' to Charles Dickens, & any number of Shakespeare's plays), as well as when working in collaboration with international broadcasters (who could forget the excellent 'Rome'?).

Their vast experience in this field has really paid off with 'Zen', a detective series based on the novels of English crime writer Michael Dibdin. Although there are some differences between the novels & the television series, they are minor & serve to facilitate the adaptation from the written to the visual. The television characters are perhaps slightly softer than their written counterparts, a necessity of economy when one considers that each episode is only ninety minutes long. Despite that the characters are well-rounded, with Rufus Sewell doing more than enough to cement his place in what is bound to be remembered as a modern classic of television.

In addition to Sewell's excellent suitability for the role, he is surrounded by an equally impressive international cast. The direction, lighting & shot composition all contribute to producing a superb whole, & it would be remiss not to mention the wardrobe, who do a fine job of catching that Italian verve.

In essence 'Zen' is a hugely enjoyable series of tasteful whodunnits, which never reveal who really did do it until the end. At the time of writing, the real mystery is whether all eleven of Dibdin's novels will be televised - it would be a crime if they weren't.

Altogether a stylish series with a sophistication brought about by understated subtlety.

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20 out of 23 people found the following review useful:

Outstanding: writing and acting

Author: big_O_Other from United States
3 August 2011

This is a wonderful series, and I am very sad that it is axed. Very well written, with great charm and wit, but also a serious purpose. It shows how, even in one of the most corrupt social / political orders in the world, someone with integrity can manage to weave through it all with his dignity, intellect and conscience intact, without being the least bit priggish, moralistic, or overly obedient to the rules and regulations.

A marvelous balancing act: it was a pleasure to watch. Rufus Sewell plays it just right, never giving away his intentions but somehow letting us know that he is thinking of how to get out of whatever impossible situation he is in. Catarina Murino is both beautiful and witty.

How could anyone halt such a wonderful series???

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18 out of 20 people found the following review useful:

Rufus Sewell's Zen worth another round of episodes...

Author: Brian Shaw ( from ATL, USA
27 July 2011

Underrated leading man Rufus Sewell gets his best role in years as Italian police detective Aurelio Zen in this summer's Masterpiece Mystery series: ZEN - now in rotation in the U.S. [ >>>>>See note on how to save this series at end of review<<<<< ]

Going against the grain of playing to younger audiences - and beautifully produced on location in Italy - this is a series for adults, lovingly crafted by a spot-on cast and shot with verve by cinematographer Tony Miller (INFINITE JUSTICE). Calling it a "detective series" seems to miss he point entirely, for it is really about watching Sewell establish an ultra-cool, post-modern anti-hero with the quiet confidence of a Raymond Chandler gumshoe and the personal flair of a '70s Alain Delon film noir protagonist.

Playing off an accomplished Italian/English cast ( see the office love interest embodied by the mesmerizing Caterina Murino), Sewell is a study in understated reserve that can turn testy when high-placed superiors want favors and cover-ups that are just not in Zen's wheelhouse. One of the fascinating things about Aurelio Zen is he must deal with a reputation for honesty that most of his cynical peers assume is just a pose, hiding a more crooked set of values closer to their own. It is too Sewell's great credit that he plays with this, sometimes showing Zen's more devious side, but then steering back to safer shores of a muted integrity that stays pretty dinged-up from episode to episode.

While there are satisfying moments of action and rather robust plot twists, still it is the face and expressions of Rufus Sewell that lock down this fresh, interesting series; his staying alive goes way beyond being able to think on his feet - for Zen must continuously side-step the dark expectations of his suspects and superiors, walking a tightrope between the half-truths and dangerous lies that make up his professional world.

In a TV universe of ever-falling standards, we should support this rare, intelligent portrait of a complex man trying to outsmart a world that grows more ruthless everyday. Those wishing to sound-off to the PBS execs that can perhaps reverse the BBC's initial decision to not buy more episodes can try contacting the American Executive Producer of PBS MYSTERY based at Boston's WGBH - Ms. Rebecca Eaton. In the past, she has been instrumental in saving several series that were not immediately picked up for a second season.-Brian H. Shaw b l o g "F.I.L.M.interpretation" at

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