Thursday, 27 October 2011

The House of Silk, The Silence

• Next week's Book at Bedtime on BBC Radio 4 is The House of Silk, Anthony Horowitz's 'missing' Sherlock Holmes case, read by Derek Jacobi (weeknights, 10.45pm). Dr Watson wrote the case up but considered it too shocking to be published in Holmes's lifetime. Only now can the full story be told…

• I should thank the folk at Soda Pictures for sending me a copy of the new German crime movie The Silence (above). I was completely locked into the pace and mood of this unsettling story of two abductions of adolescent girls that occur 23 years apart, and the shattering impact these crimes have on the police and community of a town. A retired police inspector, Krischan Mittich, is convinced there is a connection between the crimes, but he is shunned by the officer in charge. This time he is determined to find the man responsible. The film moves slowly and averts its eyes from the horror of the crimes, but it is compelling, and director/writer Baran Bo Odar gives the film a distinctive, almost abstract look. Like the original version of The Killing, the film doesn't revolve around car chases and gun fights, and it's not a whodunit. It's about the characters. The relationships between the killers – one reluctant, one lonely – the grieving parents, and the detectives with their smug, incompetent boss, are all superbly depicted. And the whole story reaches a shattering but believable climax. It's a terrific debut feature from the director, with fine performances from some leading European actors – Ulrich Thomsen, Sebastian Blomberg, Katrin Sass. ★★★★★

• Latest viewing figures show the Philip Glenister thriller on BBC1, Hidden, catching a very decent 5.5m viewers on Thursday nights. That's not far behind Spooks (5.27m). It's the final episode tonight, and I think Glenister is superb in what has been one of 2011's best thrillers.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

The Persuaders! on Blu-Ray REVIEW

Rating ★★★½

The Persuaders! 40th Anniversary Blu-ray box set, Network, 8 discs, RRP £79.99

People of a certain age become misty-eyed over The Persuaders!, recalling how the family settled down round the box on Sunday evenings just as John Barry's superb theme music began.

Certainly, the 24-part series was big news when it arrived in 1971, the brainwave of cigar-chomping screen mogul Lew Grade. It paired suave British TV regular Roger Moore with Hollywood A-lister Tony Curtis, at a time when Tinseltown's most glittering stars were too celestial to appear on the small screen – particularly in a UK production.

However, Curtis's days acting alongside the likes of Burt Lancaster in classic movies had dried up, and so he stooped to appear alongside the man who was The Saint. This didn't stop him from acting the big star on set, smoking dope and talking about his sexual conquests.

Moore recalls shooting in the South of France when a coach-load of tourists headed their way, with Curtis moaning, 'Oh god, autograph hunters.' However, it wasn't the American's autograph they wanted, but the Saints'. Which was a sign of the way their careers were going, with Moore heading for the big screen as 007 and Curtis doing now forgotten television series such as Vega$ and Perry Mason TV movies.

But while it lasted – which was only one series – The Persuaders! was light-hearted fun. Moore and Curtis, who died only last year, played Lord Brett Sinclair and Danny Wilde, chalk-and-cheese millionaire playboys who are somehow duped by a retired judge into righting wrongs in the world's glamour spots.

With stories penned by Terry Nation (Doctor Who, Blake's 7) and Brian Clemens (The Professionals, The Avengers), the adventures fizzed along, but it's the banter and chemistry of the two leads that were the show's selling point.

Lew Grade didn't just want an American star, he wanted to create a series that would crack the American market. But this expensively produced show never won over the mass US audience, and that was the end of it.

So do our fond memories of the show betray us 40 years on? A little. It has dated, and the humour – the two playboys with mute dolly birds hanging off both arms – along with the slapstick fights look corny today. But as a jaunt through some television nostalgia, The Persuaders! is still a treat.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Braquo series 1 on FX PREVIEW

Not to be messed with – Eddy Caplan, Roxane Delgado, Walter Morlighem and Théo Vachewski. Pics: FXUK
Rating ★★★★

FX from Sunday, 30 October, 10pm

Story: To clean up the reputation of their leader, who's been accused of sexually abusing a prisoner, four rogue cops launch a violent campaign against those who smeared him.

The French are a stroppy lot. If it's not their football players rebelling against their own manager, it's their rugby stars being branded as disobedient brats by their coach. To say nothing of the mobs outside the Bastille.

There's a nice moment of Gallic stroppiness in this bruising new drama when the police brass have called a meeting to soft soap the rank and file, and a female lieutenant flounces out. When her mate, Eddy Caplan, follows, his boss says they are not finished. 'We are,' Eddy says, and that's it, meeting over as the whole unit departs.

Eddy and the lieutenant, Roxane, along with two captains, Walter and Théo, are furious that their leader, Max, has been buried in disgrace after committing suicide. He was in custody for stabbing a rape suspect in the eye, and someone has leaked an accusation from the suspect, Benaissa, that Max sexually abused him.

Braquo is far more punchy than any UK cop show
Théo Vachewski
Not the types to be messed around, particularly when a comrade and his family have been dissed, the quartet take matters into their own hands and launch a reckless and violent campaign to put matters straight.

If Braquo were a colour it could only be noir, from the black leather jackets to the dark ambivalent morals of this desperate bunch of cops. It's directed by the actor and former policeman Olivier Marchal, who also made 36 Quai des Orfevres, and is far more hard-hitting than any cop series produced in the UK. Like Spiral, this doesn't portray les flics by half measures.

These guys steal from the crooks, snort coke and seem to have a bar in their office. They're also pretty handy at dishing out a beating. If this is based on Marchal's actual experience in the French force, it would be advisable to give them a very wide berth next time you're in Paris.

Max Rossi
Imprisonment or death
Max's widow tells Eddy they've been hiding behind their badges, and you can see where she's coming from. 'You've not been cops for a long time now.'

As Eddy and his rogue team start their own desperate investigation, they risk imprisonment or death, and the story is going to get a lot darker still.

If you like your cop dramas with the strength of an unfiltered Gauloises, then this is the series for you.

Friday, 21 October 2011

Third Degree: Mark Ellis

Debut author Mark Ellis in pulled into crimetimepreview HQ for questioning about his crime-viewing habits. Mark is a man with an interesting past. He was a barrister who went into business, developing a computer services company that was eventually sold for $250 million. His love of writing and passion for noir novels led him to produce Princes Gate, a thriller set in wartime London in which DCI Frank Merlin investigates the murder of a brilliant scientist.

Your favourite British crime series or thriller on TV?
Morse.

Favourite US crime series or thriller on TV?
Murder One.

Top TV cop?
Morse.

Which unfilmed book/character should be made into a TV drama?
Harry Hole (Jo Nesbo) – if there's a Norwegian series I haven't heard about it yet.

If one of your novels were filmed, who would you cast to be the hero?
Dominic West, or if you go back to old times Gregory Peck or Stanley Baker.

What is your guilty pleasure?
Harry Hill's TV Burp.

Do you prefer The Wire or The Sopranos?
The Sopranos.

Marple/Poirot or Sherlock Holmes?
Marple/Poirot.

Wallander – BBC or the Swedish version?
Swedish.

US or British television crime dramas?
British.

Your favourite crime/thriller writers?
Too many to mention but include Highsmith, Simenon, Michael Connelly, Le Carre, Graham Greene, James Ellroy, Jo Nesbo.

Favourite non-crime/thriller author?
Too many to mention but include Dickens, Tolstoy, Philip K Dick, Philip Roth, William Boyd (suppose he could be in both categories).

Favourite crime movie or thriller?
The Third Man/Strangers on a Train.

You’ve been framed for murder. Which fictional detective/sleuth would you want to call up?
Poirot.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Crime latest – Jamie Bamber to return? Spooks and Morton, In the Line of Duty, The Scapegoat

• Is this the end for Jamie Bamber in Law & Order: UK? His character, DS Matt Devlin, the show's heart-throb, was shot at the end of series five earlier this year. It's just been announced that Paul Nicholls will be joining the cast as DS Sam Casey alongside Bradley Walsh (DS Ronnie Brooks). Casey is described as 'headstrong' and will help with the investigation into Devlin's cliffhanger shooting. Stories in series six, to be shown in 2012, will include a shocking crime captured on video, a hostage hunt, cases re-opened and the past catching up with Brooks. Guests will include Tamzin Outhwaite, Toby Stephens, Eva Pope, Luke Roberts and Tim McInnerny. But does Devlin (pictured) survive the shooting? Pic: ITV

• So, Matthew Macfadyen is reprising his role as Tom Quinn in the very last episode of Spooks, which is fast approaching (Sunday, 23 October, 9pm). He left his role as head of counter-terrorism seven years ago (left), but this final series of Spooks could do with an injection of excitement. It's been trounced in the ratings by the Beeb's silly decision to schedule it on Sunday nights against Downton Abbey, traditionally the evening when costumes, not action, rule. And the plots, which are always a bit harebrained, have gone totally haywire, with Harry abducting the man from the CIA. So maybe it is time for him to go off with Ruth and have a rest. Meanwhile, it'll be interesting to see whether the BBC's next spy series from Kudos, called Morton, which was announced back in January, will be a decent replacement. This was about a female spy called Sam who is running for her life. The script is by X Files writer Frank Spotnitz. Gillian Anderson as a spy, anyone? It's all very secret, as you'd expect from this genre. Pic: BBC

• Vicky McClure, who stood out for her performances in This Is England and Five Daughters, has been cast in Line of Duty, a thriller about modern coppering. Alongside her will be Neil Morrissey (Men Behaving Badly), Martin Compston (Sweet Sixteen), Lennie James (The Walking Dead) and Gina McKee (In the Loop). The theme is corruption and the five-hour drama will be shown in 2012.

• It's great news that Garrow's Law is returning for a third series this autumn. The idea of dramatising fascinating cases from the Old Bailey records involving the pioneering barrister William Garrow was inspired. Andrew Buchan as Garrow along with Alun Armstrong, Rupert Graves and Lyndsey Marshal have taken us a totally captivating tour back in time to the brutal 18th century, exploring the era's attitude to slavery, homosexuality and corruption. The last series ended with Garrow wrongly convicted of 'criminal conversation' – or having sex with another man's wife. As revolution sweeps France in series three, attempted regicide, industrial sabotage, election rigging and police intimidation test Garrow anew. For a terrific blog about Garrow and the series, click here.

• ITV has commissioned a period dramatisation of Daphne du Maurier's The Scapegoat, starring Matthew Rhys (Brothers and Sisters) and Eileen Atkins. Rhys will play the double roles of John Standing and Johnny Spence, and Atkins will play his mother. Spence and Standing are very different men with one thing in common – their face. When they meet by chance at a station bar, their lives are changed drastically. Coming from the author of Rebecca, The Birds and Don't Look Now, this could be a cracker of a film if it has Du Maurier's trademark levels of suspense and twists. Producer Sarah Beardsall says, 'The Scapegoat will take viewers on a suspenseful journey with the character of John, from friendless anonymity, to the glamour of the big house, and then to the dark reality behind it.' Director and adapter Charles Sturridge (Handful of Dust, Shackleton) says, 'It is a daunting challenge to follow in the footsteps of Hitchcock and Roeg in adapting this thrilling and provocative writer for the screen. I loved the story from the moment I first read it and the extraordinary mix of brilliant characters surrounding these mirror image men.' Filming starts next month in London.

• Watch out for The Case on weekdays next week during daytime (starts Monday, 31 October, 2.15pm). Tony Powell is accused of murdering his terminally ill partner, Saskia, in this courtroom drama. He claims it was not murder, but assisted suicide. However, a video tape he and Saskia made together is missing. It stars Dean Andrews as Tony (pictured), Caroline Langrishe, Ruthie Henshall and Chanel Cresswell. Pic: BBC

• Finally, a treat on BBC Radio 2 for music and crime lovers. Friday Night Is Music Night on 4 November (8pm) is devoted to crime and police themes. The 70-piece BBC Concert Orchestra will be knocking out themes to Van Der Valk, Kojak, Hawaii 5-O, The Sweeney, The Pink Panther and more.


Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Death in Paradise starring Ben Miller PREVIEW

Ben Miller makes a splash as DI Poole. Pics: BBC
Rating ★★★

BBC1, from Tuesday, 25 October, 9pm

Story:
Fun, laid-back detective inspector Charlie Hulme is found murdered during a party at a mansion on the Caribbean island of Saint-Marie. Because Charlie was a Brit, the local commissioner reveals that a cop from the Metropolitan Police in London is being brought in to investigate. Enter uptight, by-the-book DI Richard Poole…

The latest in the Sightseeing Crime Genre of cop shows is Death in Paradise, a light-hearted murder mystery series set in the paradise of the Caribbean.

Sightseeing Crime Dramas are those in which the scenery is as important as the mystery or characters, such as Midsomer Murders, The No1 Ladies' Detective Agency or Bergerac, where English villages, Botswana or Jersey are major stars of the show.

The Beeb has cleverly scheduled Death in Paradise for the UK’s usually bleak, wind-blasted autumn months when lush panoramas of the island of Saint-Marie will have viewers drooling.

Sun, sea and murder in Saint-Marie
This part of the production hits the spot with vast skies, turquoise seas and balmy beaches. The rest of the entertainment is pleasant, but not quite so stunning.

British policeman Charlie Hulme (a small role for Hugo Speer), who is stationed on the island, is found dead in the panic room of the local lord’s mansion during a party. For no very clear reason beyond neatness perhaps, it is decided a Brit must investigate the murder of a Brit.

Totally ill-at-ease and uncool, detective inspector Richard Poole is flown in from the Metropolitan Police, the gag being that he hates sun, sea and sand.

Richard Poole and Camille Bordey (Sara Martins)
Ben Miller as the stiff-necked copper
The series – it’s an eight-parter – goes against the stereotype of having the local cops being slackers, with Dwayne, Lily and Fidel usually ahead of Richard in efficiency, even if they’re bemused by how stiff the black-suit-and-tie-wearing inspector is.

Ben Miller raises the occasional smile as the clever but slightly anal cop, such as when he asks his boss back in London to sort out the tangerine he’s left in the top drawer of his desk.

Once we’ve had a bit of fun at Richard’s expense, the show effectively becomes Poirot in Paradise, right down the detective’s grand reveal at the finale and virtually all the characters not being who or what we thought.

The problem with this Anglo-French co-production is that something goes missing in translation and it’s just not as amusing as the premise suggests it could be.

‘Is it always this hot?’ Poole asks his sergeant. To which she replies, ‘No, sometimes it’s a lot hotter.’

Maybe as the series finds its feet it will get a lot funnier. Otherwise, it’s a whodunit by the beach that's not so hot.

Cast: Ben Miller DI Richard Poole, Sara Martins Camille Bordey, Danny John-Jules Dwayne Myers, Gary Carr Fidel Best, Leonora Crichlow Lily Thompson, Hugo Speer DI Charlie Hulme, Don Warrington Selwyn Patterson, Sean Maguire Marlon Collins

Saturday, 8 October 2011

CWA Crime Thriller Award winners 2011

Sofie Gråbøl collects her best actress award for The Killing. Pics: ITV
And the winners were…
Idris Elba
TV Dagger CASE HISTORIES
(also nominated: Luther, The Shadow Line, Vera, Zen)

Film Dagger TRUE GRIT
(also nominated: Brighton Rock, Source Code, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest)

Best supporting actress ANN ELEONORA JORGENSEN The Killing
(also nominated: Amanda Abbington, Case Histories; Tara Fitzgerald, Waking the Dead; Kelly Macdonald, Boardwalk Empire; Ruth Wilson, Luther)

Best supporting actor RAFE SPALL The Shadow Line
(also nominated: Aiden Gillen, Thorne; Bjarne Henriksen, The Killing; John Lithgow, Dexter; Soren Malling, The Killing)

International TV THE KILLING
(also nominated: Boardwalk Empire, Castle, Dexter, Spiral)

Best actor IDRIS ELBA Luther
(also nominated: Steve Buscemi, Boardwalk Empire; Jason Isaacs, Case Histories; Lars Mikkelsen, The KIlling; Rufus Sewell, Zen)

Best actress SOFIE GRABOL The Killing
(also nominated: Brenda Blethyn, Vera; Sue Johnston, Waking the Dead; Maxine Peake, Silk; Kelly Reilly, Above Suspicion; Olivia Williams, Case Sensitive)

CWA John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger SJ WATSON Before I Go to Sleep
(also nominated: Sam Hawken, The Dead Women of Juarez; Danny Miller, Kiss Me Quick; Conor Fitzgerald, The Dogs of Rome)

CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger STEVE HAMILTON The Lock Artist
(also nominated: Craig Smith, Cold Rain; SJ Watson, Before I Go to Sleep; Michael Gruber, The Good Son)

CWA Gold Dagger TOM FRANKLIN Crooked Letter
(also nominated: AD Miller, Snow Drops; Denise Mina, The End of the Wasp Season; Steve Hamilton, The Lock Artist)

ITV3 People's Bestseller Dagger PETER JAMES
Peter James was also inducted in the Hall of Fame along with David Baldacci, Mark Billingham, Lee Child and Peter Robinson
Law & Order: UK's Bradley Walsh and host Marcus Brigstocke
The Killing (Forbrydelsen) triumphed at the CWA Crime Thriller Awards at the Grosvenor House Hotel in London last night, picking up the awards for best international crime drama, best actress and best supporting actress.

The Danish cast were there in force and were popular winners. Sofie Gråbøl – looking very elegant without her Shetland jumper – even received a standing ovation in parts of the room.

As a member of the Academy of British Crime Writing, I voted for that magnificent 20-part drama, which stunned viewers and was a runaway surprise hit for the Beeb when it went out on BBC4 at the start of this year. It was up against terrific nominees in the international category such as Boardwalk Empire, Dexter and Spiral, but fully deserved to win.

Idris Elba was another popular winner for Luther, picking up what he said was his first award in the UK. A nod went to the year's best conspiracy thriller, The Shadow Line, as Rafe Spall collected the best supporting actor Dagger for his role as the disturbing killer.

Sofie Gråbøl and CrimeTimePreview's dumbstruck correspondent. Pic courtesy of Ali Karim
Sofie Gråbøl made a huge impression on one member of the audience – me. Sadly, I was too starstruck to congratulate her (apologies, Sofie).

I did manage to get some words out when I met author Peter James, and he got round to talking about his love of racing motor cars. He was beaming after beating Lee Child, David Baldacci and the other bestselling Hall of Famers to to ITV3 People's Dagger.

ITV3 is showing the whole event on Tuesday at 9pm.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Boardwalk Empire series 2 PREVIEW

Dark times in Atlantic City. Pics: BSkyB

Rating ★★★★

Sky Atlantic, from Saturday, 8 October, 9pm

Story: Nucky braces himself for betrayal and faces investigation for voter fraud, a probe that could leave him facing time in jail.

As season two of this great-looking Prohibition drama starts, city treasurer and chief protector of the bootleggers Nucky Thompson senses there are enough plots being distilled around him that he's in for a bad hangover. Or worse.

When the first series ended, Jimmy and the Commodore were uniting over their mutual resentment of Nucky. Here we see the Commodore pushing all Jimmy's buttons. When Nucky reaches out to his former protege, it becomes clear their shared past now means little to Jimmy.

A frosty meeting between Nucky and Chalky
Further problems awaits when Chalky's distillery is attacked by Klan members, who kill several of his men. When Chalky manages to shoot a fleeing hooded figure, racial violence threatens to erupt in Atlantic City, pitting allies Chalky and Nucky against each other.

And of course, in Chicago, Al Capone and his fellow mobsters Arnold Rothstein and Lucky Luciano are waiting to grab some of Nucky's lucrative pot.

While Boardwalk Empire is not as adored as other HBO landmark shows such as The Sopranos and The Wire, it is hard not to be swept along with the scale of the storytelling. This opener begins with a terrific montage of music – 'After you get what you want, you don't want it no more' – parties, booze-ups and a reintroduction to the principal characters.

Boardwalk's characters are certainly not as indelible as those in the other two crime classics, but its merits are in its rich portrayal of a mad and colourful period in America.

Creator and executive producer Terence Winter says, 'The main theme of season two is family. What is it? What is not? And how far will we go to protect?'

Not much to laugh about – Nucky
So, Nucky – again played with an air of exasperation by Steve Buscemi – has his problems not only with Jimmy but with Margaret's chubby son, who seems to be developing an affection for starting fires.

Series one took eight Emmys, including one for Martin Scorsese's grand pilot episode, and two Golden Globes. Series two opens with a punch and lays down some intriguing storylines, ending with Nicky in a very tight spot.

It'll be interesting to see whether the drama will go on to attract a wider fanbase. But, like any self-respecting mobster, when Boardwalk Empire's in the room it's too big and flash to ignore.

Cast: Steve Buscemi Nucky Thompson, Kelly Macdonald Margaret Schroeder, Michael Pitt Jimmy Darmody, Stephen Graham Al Capone, Vincent Piazza Lucky Luciano, Dabney Coleman Commodore Louis Kaestner

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Regan starring John Thaw on Blu-ray REVIEW



Rating ★★★★

• REGAN (15) on Blu-ray: Network, released 10 Oct 2011, RRP 19.99, running time 77mins

Forget Gene Hunt and Life and Mars. If you want the original bad copper in no-nonsense flares you should track down Regan, the 1974 pilot for The Sweeney starring John Thaw, which is being released on Blu-ray this month.

This is an evocative blast from the past – and I'm not just talking about the shooters going off, guvnor. It's the lost era of sheepskin jackets, pub singalongs and derelict docklands. And some bloody ugly cars – anyone remember the Ford Zephyr? What a monster.

Get your trousers on…
We first glimpse one careering round a bend carrying detective inspector Jack Regan. He barges into a house, marches into the suspect's bedroom and says, "Get your trousers on. You're nicked."

The first words out of the Jack's mouth and the show's got its still fondly remembered catchphrase.

Regan was shown in ITV's Armchair Theatre slot and was a body slam to the old school of cop shows, such as Dixon of Dock Green and Z Cars. It was the story of an investigation into the murder of a copper, detective sergeant Cowley (Del Baker), who was caught between two vicious criminal gangs.

Regan was far rougher than Gene Hunt
But the clear star of the show was Jack Regan, a maverick detective who pushed himself to a suspension and the verge of legality to the get Cowley's killers. We see Regan recruiting detective sergeant George Carter, played in his youth by New Tricks' Dennis Waterman.

Carter is reluctant to join the trouble-friendly Regan because he values his marriage too highly. When Regan breaks and enters a property, all Carter's doubts seem confirmed.

And would Gene Hunt ever get away with telling the German boyfriend of his ex-wife, 'I don't like Krauts,' before going on to call him 'young Adolf'. He's violent, aggressive and plays dirty – a bit like many would imagine the hard cases were in the real Sweeney (Sweeney Todd: rhyming slang for Flying Squad).

19 million viewers for The Sweeney
Maureen Lipman appears as Regan's married lover. When her feller returns and she has to dump Regan, he asks her how her husband was. 'Not bad,' she says, 'seeing as you left a jacket and two pairs of Y-fronts in his wardrobe.'

A bonus feature is some of the vile clothes that passed for cool in the Seventies. Most hilariously is the climax, when Regan faces off with a violent gang while wearing a psychedelic cravat. You have to be genuinely hard to pull that off.

But despite all the machismo, Regan fascinates because he is tinged with sadness. He is someone far too devoted to his grim job for his own good.

Regan hit an audience of seven million, which led to the commissioning of The Sweeney, a series that ran from 1975 to 1978, reaching a peak of 19 million viewers.

Regan edgier than many hit crime shows of today
Seeing that UK crime series usually go soft on the police, Regan still seems a lot more edgy than twee favourites of today, such as Midsomer Murders.

The Blu-ray features a fascinating commentary by Dennis Waterman, producer Ted Childs and director Tom Clegg. There is also an interview with writer Ian Kennedy Martin.