Tuesday 21 May 2024

Streaming on Netflix and on SBS on Demand - Two takes on Irish crime - BODKIN (Jez Scharf showrunner) and BLUE LIGHTS (Series 2 - Declan

It seems a bit like the Irish crime producers are doing to the Brits  what the New Zealanders do with us more generally...make better films I mean... So is the sample too small and the fact that there's been no new series of The Line of Duty for awhile tipped the balance towards Ireland as the primary place for "Brit" TV crime. Hard to know. There was Boat  and Wolf of course but still, small though the contribution may be when you look over the the total output of Brit TV crime in 2023  the Irish seem to have a knack for the stuff. It's probably all traced back to the DNA whereby in the sinews of real Irish crime was the activity of the IRA in robbing banks to finance itself.  Maybe it dealt in drugs too. Whatever, all over Ireland, if you believe Blue Lights and to a lesser extent Bodkin, crime is rampant. In fact the Belfast of Blue Lights  is a hot bed of Loyalist gangs nowadays more interested in fighting for control of the drug trade than defending the Crown.  

All this of course just follows on from the work of Peter McKenna (Not the VFL footballer but I wont go into that again) which I breathlessly admired a year or so back when I  wrote about his series Hidden Assets and Kin. The latter especially had a sense of Shakespearean downfall about its gang leaders and their trusted offspring, their lieutenants and the powerful women who pulled their strings. It also had two of the most ferocious villains you'll ever come across - the successive heads of the Kinsella gang played by Ciaran Hinds and Francis Magee.

Blue Lights  created by Declan Lawn, Adam Patterson and Louise Gallagher, is much more a descendant of  Z Cars and The Bill. Series one tossed us into a police  station where a handful of rookie cops, all with a backstory that had to be explained, start policing the mean streets of Belfast. The lines between the old cops and the young were clear. The old cops knew much, in one case too much, and the young cops knew bugger all. Of the four young cops in series one, one has dropped out and become a lawyer with a cause that has to be the most slow burning element of series two. 

By series two, now on SBS on Demand if you can stand the ads for Chemist Warehouse, or elsewhere if you look around, the back stories are given and a couple of new cops are introduced, both of them appearing to be dodgy in ways that only get explained later. The new cops are there because drug crime and drug dealing has got out of control and two Loyalist gangs are at war with each other. Into this steps an ex-military man whose sister runs a bar which pays protection money to one of the gangs. The  veteran, who saw and did terrible things in Afghanistan, isn't going to take it anymore. ..Enough said...

Will Forte, Siobhan Cullen, Robyn Cara, Bodkin

screening on Netflix is a much smarter bit of film-making, much less formulaic if you dont regard the crime,  the corrupt police, mysterious disappearances and cold case investigations as part of a formula I guess. A Guardian-type journalist is under the pump for a story she has written exposing crime in high places which has led to the death of her whistleblower. Her editor decides she needs to cool off so sends her back to her homeland Ireland to investigate a cold case involving mysterious disappearances. Somehow or other an American podcaster and his enthusiastic assistant  are also investigating the case and the contrast couldn't be clearer. 

The journo is abrupt, crash through or crash and the podcaster is full of handwringing political correctness about what he should and shouldn't be doing. It has a drollery to it that's irresistible. The credits may shock you. I know nothing about the writer/showrunner Jez Scharf but I have heard of two of the many Executive Producers, Barack and Michelle Obama and the director of the first two eps Nash Edgerton. How a boy from Sydney get picked up to direct two eps of an Irish TV series is a mystery but I guess that's how the worldwide network of agents and producers works these days. 

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