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'Hightown' Murder Tale Has Lively Provincetown as Backdrop
May 17, 2020  | By David Hinckley

Jackie Quinones spends her evenings walking through the streets of Provincetown snorting cocaine, drinking whatever someone puts in front of her, and picking up women in lesbian bars.

During the daytime, she works in law enforcement. 

So, in a way, she’s perfectly positioned to become a central figure in the law enforcement investigation that commences after she finds a body washed up on the beach early one morning. 

Jackie, and the body, and drugs, and the cops, and Provincetown add up to an engrossing whodunit in Hightown, which launches Sunday at 8 p.m. ET on Starz.

In keeping with Starz tradition, things become raunchy at times. But the tangled backstory to the murder gets most of director Rachel Morrison’s focus and should claim most of the viewer’s interest.

Jackie (Monica Raymund, top) is an agent with the National Marine Fisheries, patrolling the waters around Cape Cod to help ensure that commercial fishing operations adhere to fishing regulations.

She sports a badge and a gun, but she’s not exactly shooting for employee of the month, because she really doesn’t care if some Pop-and-Son fishing operation hauls in a few undersized lobsters. Her off-hours are her life, even if to the casual observer they seem to send her drifting nowhere.

Life is a little more focused for Detective Ray Abruzzo (James Badge Dale), who catches the murder case after Jackie reports finding the body.

Turns out he knows the victim and suspects she may have been killed because she was going to testify in a major drug-dealer case against one Frankie Cuevas Sr. (Amaury Nolasco).

Frankie Sr. is in prison awaiting trial, so he clearly wasn’t the perp. But it’s not a stretch to think he has pals on the outside who might have been helping him out.

He definitely has a girlfriend outside, Renee Shaw (Riley Voelkel), mother of Frankie Jr. So Ray drops in on her at her place of work, a strip club with private rooms in the back, to see if he can get a few hints on who might be knocking off witnesses. 

Renee isn’t too helpful, but just talking to Ray might not be the best play where Frankie is concerned. So things start off complicated, which is potentially bad for some of the characters and good for viewers.

We might mention that other characters slip in and out as well, like Ray’s partner, and a woman who may know something about the murder and may also be reluctant to let anyone know she exists.

And then there’s Jackie, who also would prefer all of this to be someone else’s problem, except it isn’t.

Raymund and Badge Dale convincingly create prickly law enforcement officers, and Voelkel gives fascinating shades to the bad guy’s girlfriend, which is rarely more than a one-dimensional role. 

Hightown also takes the opportunity to celebrate Provincetown. While the murder is dark and ominous, the town itself bursts with life. Okay, some of that life feels decadent and a bit dangerous, but it gives Hightown an upbeat sense of ongoing energy.

You almost see why Jackie never wants to go any other place or do anything else. Almost.

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