As written by Lynda LaPlante, Prime Suspect suggests the many ways in which office politics combine with sexual politics to make women's lives difficult. Helen Mirren (The Cook, The Thief, His Wife & Her Lover) stars as Inspector Jane Tennison, who has just been put in charge of her first murder case. Nearly everyone, including many of the female members of her police precinct, assume she doesn't have the brains or the stomach to find the person who mutilated and then killed a number of London women. And when a group of her male colleagues tries to push through the conviction of a man who may or may not have done it (he's the ''prime suspect'' of the title), Tennison must solve the mystery by herself, for her own satisfaction and self-respect.
Mirren is terrific hard-boiled but never macho; always suggesting a sort of bitter humor. Some of the scenes between Mirren and her enlightened teddy bear of a boyfriend (Tom Wilkinson) are soggy, but most of the time, Prime Suspect, directed by Christopher Menaul, is wonderfully tense entertainment. A-