In this exciting drama, Jesse Stone has settled in as the police chief of the small New England town of Paradise, Mass., and his ultimate nightmare has come true: Stone finds himself filling his time writing parking tickets and struggling to keep his ever-present attraction to beautiful women and booze under control. With one of his officers on maternity leave and another fighting for his life after suffering a gunshot wound, Jesse’s restlessness gets the best of him and he re-opens a 12-year-old cold case involving the murder of a bank teller. Jesse finds his unsolved case unfolding while he’s also investigating the tawdry circumstances surrounding an alleged rape aboard a yacht during the town’s annual Race Week.
Tom Selleck’s reliably appealing performance in the title role carries Jesse Stone: Sea Change, the fourth in the series of films based on Robert B. Parker’s novels. His Jesse Stone is one gloomy dude; fired from his job as a detective with the LAPD, unhappily divorced from his wife (with whom he still talks daily on the telephone), and now police chief in a picturesque but sleepy New England burg ironically called Paradise, Stone has relieved his boredom and general disaffection by taking to the bottle. But things are about to change. First one of the local girls accuses a visiting yachtsman, in town for Racing Week, of rape, an allegation that may or may not be true (in a scenario straight out of Jaws, when the presence of a shark threatened to ruin a holiday weekend, the tourism-obsessed Paradise town council wants to sweep this one under the rug as swiftly as possible). Then there’s a robbery-murder case dating back a dozen years or more, which Stone at first takes on simply so he’ll have something to do but later becomes a good deal more complicated. Sea Change is a great-looking film, with a lovely setting, gorgeous cinematography, and a golden retriever that can be relied on for adorable reaction shots. But it’s also a TV movie of the week, which in this instance means that it’s almost entirely predictable, with professional but less-than-convincing performances by actors dealing with a script in which the characters simply don’t talk like real people (Kathy Baker and Kohl Sudduth as fellow cops are among the few exceptions). As for Jesse Stone, well, this is Tom Selleck we’re talking about, and drunk or not, he is still thoroughly likable, not to mention a major chick magnet. That alone will be enough to entertain viewers looking for some easy escapism. –Sam Graham