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(Review originally written at 22 November 2008)

This is definitely an original and different Columbo movie. Just like the previous "Columbo: No Time to Die", this movie its story got based on an Ed McBain novel. Not sure what the story was behind adapting these McBain novels, since its stories, atmosphere and settings have basically very little to do with the familiar usual Columbo franchise. Nevertheless, this is a movie that works out pleasantly because of its fine story.

Might be difficult to really see this movie as a Columbo movie entry but as a stand alone movie its simply a fine one. It's also a nicely directed movie, that has a totally different look from the usual Columbo movie entry and breaths a totally different atmosphere. It has a more theatrical- and professional movie look so to speak. Vincent McEveety was a director who tried out many different things for the Columbo series and he succeeds with this movie at were Alan J. Levi failed with his other Ed McBain adaptation "Columbo: No Time to Die".

It has a good detective mystery story, with a sniff of adventure to it, thanks to the whole jigsaw puzzle concept, that when put together shows the place were 4 millions dollars from a bank robbery-gone-wrong are hidden. The whole movie is about finding this pieces of the puzzle and the people that are holding them. At times the movie even has a touch of film-noir. It all sounds odd and out of place for a Columbo movie and yes it probably also is but nevertheless this concept, story and approach makes this simply a very fine and enjoyable movie to watch.

It has really story that could had also been used for a successful full length theatrical released movie, having many big names in it. I must say that perhaps it would had been better all together if it indeed got made that way. Not that it's a bad movie right now but it would had worked out better all if it featured some original and fresh character and wasn't a part of the Columbo franchise, with Peter Falk in it as the famous police lieutenant. The story doesn't always connect well with the character and the movie also has some weaker, slower moments in it, when Lt. Columbo goes investigating and interrogation his suspects in his trademark own manner, which again, doesn't always correspond well with the style and atmosphere of the entire movie.

Because of that for a part of the movie Lt. Columbo also needs to go undercover (hence the title; "Columbo: Undercover"), it means that Peter Falk's role is also different from any other thing he has done in any other Columbo movie. Guess he really enjoyed playing in this one! You could say that Columbo is not himself during this movie and he spends halve of the time pretending he is an Italian gangster. So no trademark Columbo moments really in this movie, which might disappoint you when you're expecting simply a Columbo movie like any other, that follows the usual successful formula and has all the familiar ingredients in it.

There is also a load of some good and well known actors within this movie. Ed Begley Jr., Burt Young and Tyne Daly all show up. It definitely gives the movie something extra and they also really did one fine job playing their roles. Same also goes for Harrison Page, who I liked as Columbo's partner in this one. Sort of a shame and perhaps a missed opportunity that he didn't got featured in any other later Columbo movies.

Really different from any other Columbo movie you'll ever see but it all works out fine and makes this a pleasant, different, Columbo movie experience.

7/10

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About Frank Veenstra

Watches movies...writes about them...and that's it for now.
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