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STUDIO: ITV Home Entertainment
RATED: Not rated (contains strong language and violence)
RUNNING TIME: 134 minutes (3 episodes)
• None to be had.
Fraud and murder in the London financial world!
Starring Jodie Whittaker, Toby Stephens, Laurence Fox, Charlie Brooks, and Riz Ahmed
Written by Kate Brooke
Directed by Kenneth Glenaan
Louise Evans (Whittaker) gets an unexpected promotion at her bank, and discovers through her best mate Anna (Brooks) that it was orchestrated by Anna’s boyfriend Phillip Manningham (Fox) who seeks to use her as a pawn in a scheme to defraud hundreds of millions of pounds from Green Tech Billionaire Lewis Stone (Gary Lewis). Phillip’s partner in crime Manesh Kunzru (Ahmed) coerces his reluctant cousin (Sacha Dhawan) into being the other inside-man at the bank, and also arranges to launder the money through a powerful crime lord Mr. Rinaldi (Ramon Tikaram) whom he hopes to curry enough favor with to end up an enduring part of his criminal empire. The plainclothes policeman who hopes to put a stop to all this is Crawford Miller (Toby Stephens) who finds himself personally and professionally entangled in Louise’s troubled affairs.
I selected this film because I thought it was the infamously terrible John Belushi biopic of the same name from 1989 starring pre-Thing Michael Chiklis and based on the book by veteran reporter Bob Woodward. This is not that. Once I realized the mistake, I read the front cover, where newspapers The Mirror and Sunday Mercury praise the film as “hair-raising” and “highly watchable” respectively and where the subtitle categorizes the film as “an edge-of-your-seat financial thriller.” I would disagree with the “hair-raising” and “edge-of-your-seat” comments but I definitely agree that it’s highly watchable. When each episode ended, I was curious enough to immediately continue, but the first cliffhanger is much more effective than the second.
The movie is not really hair-raising or edge-or-your-seat (nobody told the music that) but I think it ends up working in its favor. Bank theft on the big screen tends to emphasize the cinematic over the realistic/logical (think Swordfish) and while this certainly isn’t a docudrama, the general realism helps keeps things grounded and helps the audience relate to the characters. There are no femme fatales, or loose cannons, or drug addicts, or dirty cops or other staples of the crime genre. Everyone’s motivations are very down-to-earth and easy to understand, whether they seek to climb the professional ladder (criminal or otherwise) or hope to scuttle the thievery out of fear or reluctance.
The storytelling is very economical, and doesn’t waste your time getting started. Almost everything I described in ‘The Nutshell’ happens in the first ten minutes; it reminded me of the first few episodes of The Wire when characters are introduced so rapidly, and in separate occasionally-intersecting worlds, that the viewer isn’t sure they can keep up.
The movie in some ways actually reminded me of The Maltese Falcon. Even though it’s a crime picture, you don’t get gunfights or barroom brawls or sleek sexy action. You get rooms, with people in them; people sizing each other up, people plotting schemes, people trying to pull one over on other people. The focus is where it belongs: people. They’re not going to try and impress you with some gigantic futuristic set that’s supposed to be the trading floor of a brokerage house. It’s just desks and cubicles and those annoying glass offices for the managers. There is even a tense scene involving the automatic lights of an office building; Louise and her daughter can see the lights turning on one floor at a time in the stairwell, coming down towards them, while they get no response shouting ‘Who’s there?”
Louise is a strong central character, a heroine that never needs to be rescued and never makes silly mistakes ‘because she’s a woman.’ She’s caught between a rock and a hard place, that is the police who will toss her in jail and send her daughter to foster care, and the criminals who will scalp her and her daughter if she thinks about cooperating with the police. Whittaker plays Louise as a nice girl, but one who has been friends with enough bad girls to know her way around a tight situation without ending up on the losing end. Maybe that has something to do with the write Louise Brooks being a woman; by the law of averages, most parts for women are written by men, just like most parts for minorities are written by whites.
Manesh is another strong character played by Riz Ahmed whom you might recognize from Chris Morris’s Four Lions. Manesh is not evil, and he’s not a cartoonish ethnic stereotype. He is an ambitious criminal, who sees himself as the next right hand to a powerful and seemingly untouchable crimelord. He knows what he wants, he knows how to get it, and he knows what to do with anyone who gets in his way. There’s a scene in a forest where Phillip gets frustrated and gives Manesh a quick glancing blow to the ear. He starts apologizing profusely, and at first Manesh seems more startled than upset, but it’s only a few seconds before Phillip is spitting out mouthfuls of blood and apologizing EVEN more profusely. Manesh only gets scary as the events unfold, later delivering an unsettling monologue where he reveals the two things he inherited from his father are a strong immigrant work ethic and a switchblade used for scalping.
The Britishness feels authentically… Britishy. What the bloody hell am I talking about? Well I once heard Simon Pegg on a podcast explain that the studio encouraged the production of Shaun Of The Dead to drop some of the more particular and peculiar Britishisms in the film so it would play better for international (i.e. American) markets. They only budged on one scene, when Shuan and Ed find Mary in their backyard and Shaun remarks “She’s so drunk” instead of the original “She’s so pissed” because that usage is unfamiliar to many American-English speakers.
But this film was made for British television, so they probably didn’t give a toss about what Yanks thought. Uh oh I think I’m infected. In this film you’ll enjoy words and expressions like “don’t get too trolleyed”, “little jammy sod”, “it’s a posh do”, “tosspot affectation”, “no probs”, “get the sack”, “ring his mobile”, “piss scared”, “plummy”, “tenner”, “skint”, “nicked”, “grassed”, “toady little wanker”, and my personal favorite “My car’s parked in the car park outside.”
If you want a good crime drama that’s foreign enough to seem different and interesting but where everybody still speaks English, and that doesn’t taste your time with any unnecessary characters or subplots, this might be right up your alley. You could watch any three Law & Order episodes or this, and I think you would enjoy Wired much more. As they say in England, it’s the gravedigger’s biscuits!
Pros: Lean plotting, well-drawn characters
Cons: It’s a bit dry, bombastic music
The DVD case is from the UK, so it’s ever so slightly different than its American counterpart. The picture quality is acceptable. It’s made for TV but the production values (except the music) are easily film quality. The cover replaces the letter ‘e’ in the title with the symbol for the British Pound but all other instances have it spelled normally.
Out of a Possible 5 Stars