Saturday 16 November 2019

Streaming on SBS On Demand - TIN STAR (Series One, Rowan Joffe, Canada/UK, 2017)

Tin Star, title card
Tin Star is (just) another of the crime series on SBS On Demand. The episodes are broken up about every 12 minutes by a minute of advertising. It’s set and made in Canada and the showrunner seems to be Rowan Joffe. The son of Roland Joffe, Rowan has been writing  and directing plays TV scripts and features for close to twenty years. His feature film debut was the 2011 adaptation of Brighton Rock  and Wikipedia tells that he  wrote and directed a movie called Before I go to Sleep in 2014. It starred Nicole Kidman. It might be one of those movies that only David Stratton has seen. I had never even heard of it until I started writing these notes after seeing Tin Star.

The series is dated 2017 and I presume it was aired on one of the SBS channels before it went up on the streaming service. A second series went out on Sky Atlantic and Amazon Prime in January 2019 and a third series will go to air next year. 

Tin Star stars Tim Roth. Roth’s first role in a feature movie was in Stephen Frears The Hit in which he played a violent psychopathic criminal. In his latest role he plays a violent psychopath who starts the series as the law in a backwater Canadian  town. The back story is that Jim Worth and his family, wife Angela and daughter Anna have fled England and washed up in Canada to enable Jim to get over his drug and alcohol addictions. If you have memorised things sufficiently you will recall that when I wrote about the Norwegian series Wisting. In that one the chief cop had no foibles beyond being a distracted parent – no alcohol issues, no sexuality issues, no drug issues. Dead boring and intended to be so.

Tim Roth, Tin Star
But Tim Roth as Jim Worth makes up for it big time. He slips back into alcoholism with ease. When setbacks occur he takes to the drink, in a local dive, with the gusto of the true man of liquor. Waking up in a strange bed with an otherwise unknown woman happens with regularity. His wife and daughter cant help him but continually forgive him. Family loyalty drives the plot in all directions. 

Slowly you realise it’s the unresolved guilt from his past, the cause of his exile and, in a prodigious episode nine of the ten that constitute the first series, we get a flashback to his past as an undercover cop in Northern Ireland and the double life he led.

By episode ten Jim Worth is now back to being Jack Devlin and is intent on turning the tables on those from his past who have come to take revenge on him. The end, in the snow on top of a mountain, seems to suggest wipeout of all concerned. But there is more to come.

The background is quite meticulous – a small town, an oil company building a new plant, the head of security (a near-Mabuse like evil genius) brooking no opposition while the female head of PR unearths dark secrets and spend the series changing from as a rather well-drawn bad girl into at least a good-bad girl.

But ultimately no one does psychopathy like Tim Roth – no one can do drug and alcohol fuelled violence with such intensity and the final most violent act, with the billiard balls inside a sock, is truly shocking. And when it comes to his turn to take a belting, no one quite copes with such stoicism. One episode is of such intensity it comes with a special censorship warning. That's almost a tribute in itself to Roth’s intense portrayal of a man taking refuge in alcohol to assuage his guilty secrets. Quite impressive. Roll on S2.

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