The Driver, BBC1, with David Morrissey, Ian Hart, Colm Meaney PREVIEW

Vince McKee (DAVID MORRISSEY) in The Driver
Driven to desperation – cabbie Vince McKee (David Morrissey). Pics: BBC

Rating: ★★★★

BBC1: starts Tuesday, 23 September, 9pm

Story: Taxi driver Vince McKee finds his life taking an unexpected turn when he accepts an offer to drive for a criminal gang. It’s been engineered by his old friend Colin, who has resurfaced after a six-year stretch in prison.

‘HOW WOULD YOU like to earn a bit extra?’ These are the words that slowly tempt cabbie Vince McKee into a faustian pack with a gangster known as the Horse in this stylish and gripping slice of Manc noir.

David Morrissey is very good at playing men on the edge – remember him in State of Play? – and he is the man caught in crisis here. His life consists of crap money, customers puking in his cab and a burnt-out marriage to Rosalind.

Since their son cut his ties with them, they’ve drifted apart, and Vince is finding it hard to get on with his teenage daughter. He is depressed and stressed.

Colm Meaney as the Horse in The Driver
Colm Meaney is a man called Horse

Poker with the Horse

His world takes a swerve for the reckless when he meets his old chum Colin, just released from prison for armed robbery. Colin thinks he is good at being a criminal, despite his recent long stretch inside.

He and Vince discover that the woman in Colin’s life has been made pregnant while he was inside by his twin brother. Colin is, in other words, a sad case – and a bit toxic. When he invites Vince to play poker at his mate The Horse’s place, you know the cabbie should see a red light here and steer clear.

When the Horse, played by Colm Meaney in his first UK television role since the police drama Strangers in 1982, offers him ‘a bit extra’, Vince is adamant he doesn’t want to get sucked into the perils of Colin’s circle.

Part thriller, part family drama

However, when he has a run-in with two drunken young women who assault, rob him and flee his

David Morrissey as Vince McKee, Claudie Blakely as Ros McKee in The Driver
Vince and Ros

taxi down a dark back street, Vince accepts the Horse’s offer.

The Driver is a sharp story, part thriller and part family drama, directed with noirish intensity by Jamie Payne. It is written by Danny Brocklehurst (Accused, The Street) and Jim Poyser (Shameless), two writers who can build characters that have depth and moral complexity.

No one is perfect here, and when Vince goes for the offer to be a driver for the gang, we can see how seductive this is for him. The beauty of the story is that Vince is initially a changed man with his moonlighting role.

Brutal twist and a rubber-ripping car chase

The Horse pays well, Vince has cash to buy driving lessons for his daughter and remembers his

Woodsy (CHRIS COGHILL), Darren (ANDREW TIERNAN) in The Driver
Not a pretty sight – Woodsy and Darren

wedding anniversary (which Ros has forgotten). By the end of the opener, however, the story takes a brutal twist, and Vince knows he is in deep.

Manchester is filmed beautifully as a night-time backdrop to much of the action, and Jamie Payne builds some of the scenes very effectively. The meeting in which Vince accepts the work offer at the Horse’s swanky house, watched by his goons, is brilliantly atmospheric, combining visual warnings, off-kilter Hawaiian-style music on the gangster’s sound system and thinly veiled threats.

It’s only a three-parter, but The Driver tears off with a rubber-ripping car chase and packs plenty of absorbing drama. Fasten your seatbelts…

Cast: David Morrissey Vince McKee, Claudie Blakely Ros McKee, Ian Hart Colin and Craig Vine, Sacha Parkinson Katie, Colm Meaney The Horse, Darren Morfitt Mickey, Andrew Tiernan Darren, Christopher Coghill Woodsy, Lee Ross Kev Mitchell, Shaun Dingwall Detective Ryder, Lewis Rainer Tim McKee, Harish Patel Amjad, Tom Gibbons Ryan

Check out these links…
David Morrissey on bbc.co.uk
The Driver on bbc.co.uk

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