All roads lead to darkness in Starz kidnapping miniseries 'The Missing'

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'The Missing' takes what starts out as a basic, if tragic, crime and gives it tendrils reaching every which way into dark, ugly places.

The eight-part miniseries, a BBC co-production that begins Saturday on Starz, is handicapped a bit by its overly hotheaded protagonist, played by James Nesbitt. But if his access as a grieving father to crime scenes and witnesses often seems a bit preposterous, the story's many side alleys and turnabouts serve as ample distraction.

The tale plays out in two time periods, 2006 and the present, unfolding mostly in France, but popping up in London, as well. Nesbitt plays Tony Hughes, on vacation with his wife, Emily (Frances O'Connor), and their 6-year-old son in France when their car breaks down. They take refuge in a quaint town.

It's World Cup time, and when Tony brings his boy to a recreation center, a great crowd is gathered around a television, cheering. Tony watches for a second, then realizes his son is no longer holding his hand. He looks down and the boy is gone.

And there you have it, your basic missing kid scenario peppered with a bit of European soccer hysteria. Except "The Missing" doesn't follow a straight line. In 2006, the search is on; in the present, an alcoholic, beat-down and now single Tony has returned to France with a new clue to start the search again.

As episodes pass, a top-level investigator (Tcheky Karyo) gets involved in both time periods and everything from Romanian gangsters to child molesters to undercover cops, sudden assaults and eventual murder gets thrown in the mix. The loving relationship between Tony and Emily turns brittle and Tony's search becomes more obsession than mission, a dark thing itself. Evil, it seems, likes to spread out.

TLong@detroitnews.com

twitter.com/toomuchTomLong

'The Missing'

GRADE: B

9 p.m. Saturday

Starz

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