Bingeworthy? Belgian cops, hostages and hoodlums scheme their way thru “The Day (De Dag)”

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The best of the “bingeworthy” dramas in this, the golden age of streaming, are true “limited series.”

They’re the TV equivalent of a good genre novel, a “page turner.” They give you a beginning, a layered, ever-more-revealing, twisty middle, and an end — a conclusion.

The Belgian bank robbery/hostages thriller “The Day (De Dag)” gives you a lot to wrestle with in its introduction and challenges you right up to the series finale. So many characters, so many intrigues, the occasional competing agenda, the odd “Wait, she’s WHAT?” make it the quintessential crime “page turner.”

It’s about “The Day” of a crime, and is seen from the point of view of both the police, mustering outside, summoning hostage negotiators (Sophie Decleir, Lukas De Wolf and Willy Thomas) and the handful of hostages and the criminals “trapped” inside a Belgian bank. These points-of-view are explored semi-separately, in alternating episodes.

Yes, that’s gimmicky and repetitive. But the viewer’s perception is altered in each episode — the negotiator who may be “green,” the distraught and grieving heiress (Maaike Neuville) accidentally trapped inside, the hatefully rebellious teen girl (Imani De Caestecker) who shows she can redirect her rage when her kid brother is threatened.

North American viewers should find its differing police tactics, even if the SWAT armor and tiny cameras drilled through the walls (the gear) seems the same. Reading the Dutch word for police, “Politie” and seeing cops interact with criminals, victims, family and rule-benders in the press, the “polite” contrast with American law enforcement is stark.

Masked gunmen have slipped into a scaled-down branch of FidesBank, grabbing an employee or three, and whoever was hitting the sealed-off lobby ATM, by accident.

A cell-phone is left dangling at the door to speak to the cops with as they seal the place explosive devices and settle in for a siege they plainly came prepared for.

Or did they? As “The Day” unfolds (in Dutch with English subtitles), we may think “inside job” only to be steered away from it in the next episode. We rightfully wonder, “Why is there a vault in a store room hidden behind cardboard boxes?”

Did the crooks mean for the fabric firm’s heiress, grieving from the recent suicide of her brother, to be there? What will they do with teenage Noor (De Caestecker) and her baby brother Basil?

The most intriguing bits to me were in the hostage negotiator van, where Vos (Declair) is letting new guy Ibrahim (De Wolf) handle the phone calls, and where senior man Roeland (Willy Thomas) pieces together a profile of who they’re up against just by the demands, the language used, the tenor of the voice and their responses to this counter offer or that bit of “pressure.”

 

 

You watch as many movies and TV series like this as I have and you can’t help but place a premium on any that serves up a big dose of “What the hell is going on here?”

Straight hostages-for-cash caper? Money laundering? Blackmail? What is it they plan to do with the cash? How will they make their getaway?

It takes two episodes for the first “cop movie/TV show” cliche to show up.

“When did you start smoking again?”

The repetition may be wearing, and the penurious way plot, motives and simple character names and relationship are explained — there are a LOT of moving parts here — is challenging.

But the way all these people, pieces and plans are integrated and broken down will keep you on task for all 12 episodes of “The Day.”

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MPAA Rating: unrated, violence

Cast:    Willy Thomas, Imani De Caestecker, Johan van Assche, Maaike Neuville, Lukas De Wolf, Bob Snijers, Geert Van Rampelberg, Sophie Decleir

Credits: Created by Jonas Geirnaert. Streaming on Topic.

Running time: 12 episodes @38-48 minutes each

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