Fargo Ch4, with Billy Bob Thornton, Martin Freeman, Bob Odenkirk

No, it’s not Elmer Fudd, but insurance man Lester Nygaard (Martin Freeman). Pics: Ch4

Rating: ★★★ 

Channel 4: starts Sunday, 20 April, 9pm 

Story: Timid, henpecked insurance salesman Lester Nygaard is waiting in a hospital reception after a nose-breaking encounter with the guy who used to bully him at high school. He strikes up a conversation with a vengeful drifter, Lorne Malvo – a chance meeting that drastically changes his life.

SOME MOVIES are so adored and revered that TV honchos just can’t resist paying tribute to them – or should that be can’t resist cashing in on them.

Anyway, we’ve had the recent well-received TV re-imaginings of Silence of the Lambs with Hannibal and the Bates Motel reboot of Psycho. The latest is this 10-parter inspired by the Coen brothers’ beautifully observed 1996 classic crime caper-gone-wrong Fargo.

Car crash waiting to happen – Malvo (Billy Bob Thornton)

The first thing to say is that none of these transfers come close to surpassing or even capturing the scintillating originality of the movies. That’s too much to expect, so to be any good they need to cut a new TV path for themselves.

Lorne Malvo is a timebomb

Hannibal and Bates Motel have made it to second seasons, and Fargo shows a lot of promise in that regard.

The cast is really enticing, from Martin Freeman and Billy Bob Thornton in the leads, to Breaking Bad‘s Bob Odenkirk as a cop who can’t stand the sight of gore, and newcomer Allison Tolman as tyro investigator Molly Solverson in the nowheresville town of Bemidji.

While she bears some resemblance to Frances McDormand’s iconic character Marge in the movie, and Freeman’s timid insurance man Lester Nygaard recalls William H Macy’s brilliantly stupid and greedy

Cops Solverson and Oswalt

Jerry Lundegaard, these are mere echoes of the original. The series has a totally fresh plot.

Lester meets Billy Bob Thornton’s Lorne Malvo in a hospital waiting room after a run-in with the thug who used to bully him at high school. Malvo is a timebomb of malevolence and vengeance, and the most compelling character here, almost on a par with Anton Chigurh in the Coen’s No Country for Old Men.

Lester Nygaard v Jerry Lundegaard

You know the moment Malvo says to Lester ‘I would have killed that man’ that Lester’s life has taken a turn for the destructive. Thornton, veteran of off-beats such as that other Coen flick The Man Who Wasn’t There and 2003’s Bad Santa, brings the right level of crazed certainty to Malvo to make him watchable all the way.

Martin Freeman is good as Lester, but his character is not as well drawn as Jerry Lundegaard, whose catalogue of moronic blunders had a strange, stupid logic to them. Lester’s descent is abrupt and lurid.

Lester runs into his old high school bully, Sam Hess

But the setting is again stark and beautiful, those long highways cutting through endless snowscapes. It makes a decent fist of capturing the movie’s wonderful portrayal of ‘Minnesota nice’ and the local speech with its Nordic roots. So everyone says ‘oh hun’, ‘yah’ and ‘jeez’.

By the end of the opener there’s a lot of bloodshed and a good level of black humour. And with a host of interesting secondary characters still to appear, Fargo the TV show is looking like a good place to chill out.

Cast: Billy Bob Thornton Lorne Malvo, Martin Freeman Lester Nygaard, Allison Tolman Molly Solverson, Bob Odenkirk Bill Oswalt, Colin Hanks Gus Grimly, Joey King Greta Grimly

Try these links…

Fargo Channel 4
Bates Motel CrimeTimePreview
Hannibal CrimeTimePreview
Review NY Daily News

Follow @crimetimeprev

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