More Than a Dollar’s Worth

TV Review: “One Dollar” Ten chapters of a TV series on CBS All Access.

“One Dollar” is a modern film noir. It’s also a lot of other things that make it really worthwhile.

It’s social commentary about life in America’s Rust Belt as the jobs disappear and the people sink into despondency. It’s uplifting vignettes about people caring for one another during hard times. Its an exploration of the lives of working families in crisis. It’s a tribute. It’s one damn fine piece of artistry.

In a small town near Pittsburg, the first men to come to work at the town’s steel mill discover pools of blood. There are no bodies, and apparently no one is missing. Competence is not one of the characteristics of the local police force. Only one tired and cynical ex-police detective has the interest and the ability to figure out what happened. He can’t sleep. He can’t express himself. He’s a perfectly jaded film noir detective. He can’t stop inquiring.

Not all of the excellently portrayed characters in the small town have anything at all to do with the blood crime. Some of them just briefly carry around the one dollar bill that circulates around town and gives the series its name and motif. But they all explain the town and the times.

It’s a darned good story well told. But that’s not why I raised my opinion several notches before I got to Chapter 10. It was when I realized that Robert Altman, the great American film director who died in 2006, was still alive through the works of present-day directors. I have always thought that Altman’s “Nashville” represented the highest order of film technique, and I saw a lot of it in “One Dollar.”

Remember Altman’s great transitions from one vaguely related part of the story to another? Remember how he could juggle a dozen different stories and keep them all interesting even though they seemed unrelated? “One Dollar” does that. It works and I am grateful.

-Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON’s “Workers Beat” talk show every Saturday at 9AM Central Time. They podcast the program and “Workers Beat Extra” on Soundcloud. If you are curious about what I actually think, check out my personal web site

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