13 Commandments

13 Commandments

Bloody message – the detectives on the hunt for ‘Moses’

A sinister series of biblically themed crimes challenges Belgian detectives in this dark thriller

★★★½

Channel 4, Sunday, starts 18 March, 10pm

FIVE OR SIX years ago it was the Nordic explosion in crime TV. Today the growing buzz is around Belgian series.

13 Commandments is a violent 13-parter about a moralistic killer basing his crimes on the 10 commandments. It begins with a grisly throat-slitting murder – which could put off some viewers – but after that lurid start, it becomes quite compelling.

There are conventional features, such as the budding police relationship between isolated old-timer Peter Devriendt (played by Dirk van Dijck) and his new unwanted young partner, Vicky Degraeve (Marie Vinck).

Odd-couple cops

She has been traumatised by her time with special forces. He lives alone and has a distant relationship with his daughter.

The character development is slow but convincing. After a while it seems logical that the two misfits should click.

While there was a bleakness amid the chill settings of Scandi classics such as The Bridge and The Killing, 13 Commandments offers unpredictability. Here, the twist is that the killer’s crimes make him a media sensation. Vicky and Peter’s job in hunting him becomes all the more difficult and dangerous.

Belgian crime wave

Other Belgian series to look out for under the Walter Presents umbrella include Rough Justice and Professor T. If the distinctive features of Belgium’s crime shows are mood and quirkiness, these two typify each style respectively. Rough Justice follows damaged Superintendent Liese Meerhout, while Professor T is about an eccentric professor with a sideline as police adviser.

And look out for the second series of Belgian hit Salamander, coming soon to BBC4.

In the meantime, watch as the criminal who calls himself Moses tries to restore a moral order to the world. It’s a dark and at times cinematic journey…

Babylon Berlin graphic novel

WE’VE SEEN IT on Sky Atlantic and it’s just launched on Netflix in the US. Soon a new blast of the period crimer Babylon Berlin will return – as a graphic novel.

The 16-part series met with acclaim when European audiences caught it last autumn. It’s a pacy and intriguing recreation of hedonistic 1920s and 30s Weimar Germany. It was also the most expensive Euro-TV production ever, costing a reported $47 million.

Set in Berlin, 1929, the story follows detective Gereon Rath. He gets pulled into a web of drugs, sex, political intrigue and murder.

The transition to the graphic world works a treat. Writer/artist Arne Jysch captures the noir mood and danger of this volatile period. The artwork has a vintage, but cinematic, feel to it.

Publisher is Titan Comics. Details: Hardcover, B&W, 216pp, $24.99 US/$33.99 CAN/£21.99 UK
On sale: February 27, 2018 ISBN: 9781785866357

Gomorrah 3, Sky Atlantic

Gomorrah, Series 03, Unit Stills, Salavtore Esposito as Genny Savastano, © 2017 Beta Film

Long live the king – Salavtore Esposito, right, as Genny Savastano

Trigger fingers at the ready for another season of family business – Neapolitan-style

★★★★

Sky Atlantic, Wednesday, 31 January, 9pm

SEE NAPLES and die – which is what a lot of people do in Gomorrah. As the third series hits Sky Atlantic, the fallout from the assassination of boss Don Pietro Savastano begins.

The episode opens in typical style, with an overhead shot of the Don’s bloody body. Genny, his son, once seen as the bumbling dolt, is now nastier and in charge. The new Don.

Long Live the King, this opener is called. And that brilliantly captures the chaos and blood-letting that surrounds the change of regime amid flying accusations.

Can Genny stay in control of Secondigliano?

Gomorrah, Series 03, Unit Stills, © 2017 Beta Film

End of the Don – Pietro

Genny could be about to take control of the Secondigliano area of the city. But can he get a grip of his clan’s hardened soldiers? And can he convince the Camorra’s ruling council that he is the man for the job.

This acclaimed Italian drama, based on Roberto Saviano‘s excellent non-fiction book, first reached us in 2014. It is worth catching for its authentic feel. Shot on the streets of the Neapolitan suburbs, it is mean and menacing.

This is a world of grim public housing estates, cut-throat rivalries and power-crazed machinations.

Salvatore Esposito as Genny

Gomorrah, Series 03, Unit Stills, © 2017 Beta Film

Tension – Patrizia and Genny

Believe me, it is no advert for the lifestyle. Those who grab the throne are immediately under siege. This is also a world in which family can harbour the most brutal betrayal.

Not all of the acting is good. Salvatore Esposito as Genny, for example, is one-dimensional. But he is surrounded by a rich gallery of performers.

It is an adrenalin-pounding season opener, with a stunning twist and shift of power before the end. Revenge served cold, indeed.

Dead Beautiful starring Thierry Godard

Dead Beautiful episode 1

Beauty and the beast: a serial killer is on the loose

French cop procedural with good storytelling and a chilling case

★★★½

All 4, from Friday, 4 August 

DEAD BEAUTIFUL is the latest foreign-language crime series to hit ALL 4’S Walter Presents strand. This has offered some terrific offbeat foreign dramas since its launch in January last year. From Deutschland 83 to The Swingers, the quirky best of Norway, France, Mexico, Switzerland and other countries have been sifted for some minor gems.

Dead Beautiful, a French series, is decent enough, but not particularly special. It’s a police procedural of the type Britain already produces in abundance – from Endeavour to Grantchester and on and on.

It is chock-full of the usual plot suspects – dead women, a crumpled detective, forensics, where were you on the night of the 14th?

Thierry Godard as Martin

What it has got is an intriguing opening story about a serial killer. Each episode is a separate case and if they all have as many twists and gasps as this one, the series should satisfy many crime fans. The stories are based on a successful series of books  by Alexis Lecave, who is also the screenwriter here.

Thierry Godard in Dead Beautiful

Complicated love life: Thierry Godard as detective Martin

In addition it has Thierry Godard. He is a much in-demand French star with more than 50 films on his CV. He should be familiar to BBC4 fans of Spiral, in which he played Gilou. Here he steps up from the cast to lead star as detective Martin, on the trail of a nasty killer who targets women with a crossbow.

The murderer selects his victims from lonely-hearts columns, always seeking women with light eyes and chestnut-coloured hair.

The stakes are high for Martin and his team. At times the hunt for the elusive killer feels like an adrenalin-fuelled evening at a top online casino.

Dead Beautiful’s plot twists and good characters

There are nine 100-minute episodes. This allows the makers to flesh out the characters and move beyond the procedural stuff, which in many series can get boring.

So we get an insight into Martin’s complicated love life – lovers include a colleague, a journalist, and his ex-wife, who he is still sleeping with – and his relationship with his fiery actress daughter.

Summer is the season of repeats and dud shows that can’t usually be placed anywhere else in the schedules during other times of the year. Dead Beautiful should help filled the dog days.

Case, Icelandic mystery on Channel 4

Case, Channel 4

In the dark – investigator Gabriela (Steinunn Ólína Þorsteinsdóttir)

Fans of foreign thrillers set in cold climates should check out this latest intrigue from Iceland

★★★½ Channel 4, Tuesday, 24 January, 10pm

FOR A PLACE that’s so off the beaten track and with such a tiny population (332,000), Iceland is certainly making its presence felt on the crime-thriller TV scene.

BBC4 gave us the brilliant Trapped last year, and now Channel 4 has this new series in its Walter Presents strand. It begins with the discovery of a teenage ballet student who is found hanged on the stage of a dance school in Reykjavik.

In a multi-stranded story we meet the unglamorous cop partners Gabriela and Hogni, the ladies’ man attorney Logi, who has a group of female punk types hacking for him, and a variety of characters from the young victim’s life.

The director of Trapped, Baldvin Zophoniasson, is on duty here, too. It’s a skilfully told and gritty mystery about abuse, corruption and scandal. It was a huge hit in Iceland and has been acclaimed by the New York Times.

Case, Channel 4

Young and innocent? Julius and Elfa

The Passenger, All 4

All 4 The Passenger

Detectives mus take the bull by the horns in The Passenger

HAVING THE HORROR OVERTONES of True Detective series one, this new French series on All 4 looks a bit of a spine-tingler.

The naked body of a man wearing a bull’s head is discovered at the Gare de Bordeaux-St-Jean. It’s the work of a serial killer and first of a string of slaughters emulating Greek mythology.

The Passenger is based on a best-selling novel by Jean-Christophe Grangé, and stars Raphaëlle Agogué and Jean-Hugues Anglade.

Corporate cover-up

Captain Anaïs Châtelet teams up with forensic psychiatrist Matthias Freire to solve the case. They are sure it’s linked to a disturbing corporate cover up. Drenched in atmosphere and full of twists, the series looks a bit more edgy than Midsomer Murders.

Coming to the All 4 on-demand service as part of the Walter Presents strand, this launches on Friday, 2 December.

The Passenger All 4

Forensic psychiatrist Matthias Freire and Captain Anaïs Châtelet

Marseille series 2

Netflix crime drama Marseille was one of the most lavish TV series we’ve seen in many years. With heavy-hitting actors like Gerard Depardieu and a string of mob-related violence engulfing the tower blocks and casinos of the French city, it represented how serious the streaming service is about creating big-budget TV content.

Although the series suffered a few critical misgivings, it was a highly watchable show that’s been given the go-ahead for a second series.

Marseille focused on a slightly corrupt mayor Robert Taro, excellently portrayed by veteran actor Depardieu. It showed him trying to overcome political infighting, family troubles and the gangs of Marseille.

Inter-racial romance

The central theme of series one was how the mayor tried to establish a legal casino in the old port as a way of countering growing mob-related activities. And such is the popularity of gaming websites like Lucky Nugget Casino, which enables players to get a big win via their online pokies games, that it illustrated how prescient the makers of Marseille were in the creation of this extravagant series.

Netflix series Marseille with Gerard Depardieu

Port of call: the cast of Marseille

Other topical themes were the explorations of inter-racial romance, as well as its endemic drug culture. But it was the expansive cinematography of Marseille that was perhaps its trademark. The luxurious coastline was depicted showing a dramatic contrast with the decrepit tower blocks that form the core of the series’ criminal activity.

Braquo and Spiral

Perhaps what caused some critical misgivings was the success of other recent French crime series. Marseilles lacked the firepower of the Canal+ series Braquo. It also didn’t come close to the psychological complexity of the excellent Spiral series, also due to make a welcome return.

But regardless of the negative critical reception, it’s expected Marseilles 2 won’t hold back in its portrayal of the underworld in this complex city.

Whether it sees Depardieu’s character again attempting to provide online pokies fans with a real-life casino, or whether his villainous rival, Lucas Barres, makes another bid for power, remains to be seen. But whatever happens, it’s sure to look great and be entertaining.

No Limit, new Luc Besson thriller

No Limit

Big shot – Vincent Elbaz as Libérati

It’s all action in this French Riviera-set thriller

★★★ All4, from Friday, 5 August

JUST AS Jason Bourne is tearing up screens at the multiplexes, along comes this French TV actioner hoping to do the same in our living rooms.

It joins the foreign legion of dramas under the Walter Presents flag, part of All4’s on-demand service.

Created by Luc Besson, who showed his flair for penning action spectacles with Nikita and Leon, alongside Franck Philippon, ditto with Sky Atlantic’s The Tunnel, No Limit clearly will be light on emotions and introspection.

Vincent Elbaz as Libérati

Springing into action – the man on a mission

Springing into action – the man on a mission

In fact, it’s a strangely old-fashioned show, or perhaps it’s consciously retro, utilising split screens, some breezy banter between the mayhem and a title sequence featuring scuba-diving, jumping off buildings and the like. Anyone have fond memories of Airwolf or Knight Rider?

The twist in the premise is that our hero, Vincent Libérati (Vincent Elbaz), is having treatment for a brain tumor. He wants to abandon the James Bond lifestyle to look after his cheeky 16-year-old daughter.

But wouldn’t you know it? In order to receive some experimental medical treatment he has to agree to join a confidential crime-fighting group.

French Riviera setting

No Limit on All4

Rush hour for Vincent

The opening episode sees him tangling with arms dealers, having punch-ups and cracking safes.

No Limit is unlikely to linger long in your mind, but if you feel like vegging out in front of an hour of smash-bang-wallop with a French Riviera backdrop, there are 22 episodes coming up.

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