10, All4’s gripping crime drama

10 - Clara Pestalozzi

Spy game – Clara is one of the surveillance team

The stakes couldn’t be higher in this Swiss thriller combining crime and poker

★★★½ All4, currently available on-demand at Walter Presents (All4)

10_boxset_440x600WALTER PRESENTS is the video-on-demand service of Channel 4’s sister network All4, which launched in January. You may have seen plugs for some of its off-kilter and risqué foreign crime dramas, including The Out-Laws (Belgium), The Hunter (France) and Locked Up (Spain).

10 - Vincent Torrella (1)

Strong hand? Vincent reflects on his risky plan

Among them is a particular fave of mine, the Swiss drama 10. It’s a thriller set at a poker game, resulting in a multilayered story combining action round the table and behind the scenes.

On New Year’s Eve, croupier Vincent Torrella (Jérôme Robart) welcomes a disparate group of high-stakes poker players to a secret game in Geneva. It’s a twist on the country-house murder mystery with characters locked together in a setting. As the drama unfolds, we realise there’s a lot more than half-a-million francs at stake.

The crook, the hoodie and the ex-lover

Through flashbacks we get a glimpse into the players: including the bullying crook; Vincent’s stuttering brother, Manuel, and Manuel’s lover; the mystery man in hoodie and shades; the older woman; a Chinese diplomat; plus an police undercover officer.

Directed by Jean-Laurent Chautems and written by Christophe Marzal and Christian François, this is a cool, atmospheric slice of noir.

The episodes are half an hour long, just enough time for a major surprise to be sprung in each instalment. There’s plenty of intrigue and even a little romance as the poker action proceeds.

Secret eyes watching the game

10 - Surveillance Cam

All-in – The players on CCTV

Thousands of viewers will have experience of poker and gaming at online casinos with sites such as www.toponlinecasinos.co.uk and many who settle down to 10 will be familiar with Texas Hold’em. But you won’t need to be an expert to understand what’s going on as the characters attempt to outplay and bluff each other to win that half-a-million franc pot.

In the meantime, there are many intrigues to unravel. Why is one of the women playing so recklessly by repeatedly going all-in? Will Vincent retrieve the prize money when he loses it down a ventilator shaft?

And with secret eyes watching proceedings and a police officers’ party in progress on a different floor in the same building, will the players hold their nerve throughout the night?

Like the game itself, the drama is compelling, with its themes of surveillance, poker action and personal conspiracies.

 

Gomorrah 2, Sky Atlantic

GOMORRAH - Series 2, Episode 12

See Naples and die – Marco D’Amore as Ciro

The Glocks are out for a revenge-fuelled return of the Neapolitan mob fest 

★★★ Sky Atlantic, Wednesdays, 9pm

ALONG WITH the Renaissance and tragic opera, another great Italian art form is the blood feud. And the Neapolitan Camorra has explored the dark side of the human condition through internecine vendettas as well as anyone.

GOMORRAH - Series 2, Episode 3

New alliances – clan leaders divvy up the Savastano empire

The gruesome finale of the first season of Gomorrah, which is based on Roberto Saviano’s non-fiction bestseller about the Neapolitan mob, was spectacularly bloody, with Imma, matriarch of the Savastano clan, murdered, her son Genny betrayed and shot by Ciro at his own daughter’s recital, and generations of soldiers on both sides wiped out.

Series two plunges us straight back into the mayhem. Wounded Genny on a gurney, his father Don Pietro busted out of prison looking for revenge, Ciro’s wife terrified of assassination and Ciro now desperately forming an alliance with Don Pietro’s old enemy Salvatore Conte.

Got it? Basically, no one trusts anyone.

Marco D’Amore as Ciro

Part of the fascination of this gritty, grimy series is why anyone bothers with the Camorra way of life. Yes, there are riches to be had, but you can’t turn your back on your best friend for a minute. Get to the top and you’ll probably end up living in an underground hovel hiding from every law enforcement agency in Italy.

GOMORRA - Series 2, Episode 1

Allies – Ciro and Salvatore

This is a fictionalised take on Saviano‘s eye-opening book, which is shocking in its depiction of the industrial scale of the mob’s operations. The series reduces the narrative to gang level, but it is still a fascinating portrait of depraved morals and warped loyalties.

The backdrop to events is once again the concrete housing hell of Vele di Scampia, a fortress of deprivation and criminality, and the series has an air of authenticity, with characters speaking the Neapolitan dialect barely understood by the rest of Italy.

Marco D’Amore once again leads the story as Ciro, but there seems to be an attempt to thrust some female characters into proceedings, with Ciro’s wife Debora featuring more prominently, among others.

Episodes 5 and 6 are coming up this week. Hang onto your armchairs…

Wallander (Swedish) — Killer TV No 22

6151516-low_res-wallander-swedishTV4, 2005-2013

‘Good cops allow themselves to be ground down. The job absorbs them.’ – Kurt Wallander

Krister Henriksson, Mats Bergman, Angela Kovacs, Johanna Sällström, Charlotta Jonsson

Identikit: Kurt Wallander, a police inspector and detective in Ystad, Sweden, balances his harrowing caseload with his troubled private life, including a tempestuous relationship with his daughter, Linda.


logosSWEDISH TELEVISION made 26 episodes of stories adapted from Henning Mankell’s Kurt Wallander novels, all of which starred Kirster Henriksson. Where Kenneth Branagh was subdued and thoughtful, bordering on glum, in the BBC version, Henriksson portrayed a more rounded character who, though trapped somewhat  by his police career, could reach out to those close to him. Henriksson is the definitive Wallander to many, but he came to the part only after the bear-like Rolf Lassgård had made a series of Wallander films (1994-2007). But Henriksson’s understated, approachable Wallander is a good balance between Lassgård’s irascible portrayal and Kenneth Branagh’s ultra-glum version. Henriksson’s very first story in the TV series, Before the Frost, saw the detective uncovering a dangerous religious cult headed by a sadistic killer, while also struggling to make up for his failures as a father to his daughter, Linda (Johanna Sällström), newly qualified as a police officer herself. This was an absorbing drama, beautifully mixing the personal stories with an investigation into tragic and horrific events. The two 13-part series openers – The Revenge opened season 2 – were released in cinemas in Sweden and were better than the mid-season episodes, which were less carefully crafted and a bit more predictable. A third and final season (six 90-minute films), featuring Charlotta Jonsson as Linda Wallander, aired in 2013.

Classic episode: Before the Frost was the TV series’ first episode and a compelling mix of tragedy. Kurt is on the trail of a poisonous cult leader, and the detective’s painfully tangled personal life, particularly in his uncomfortable relationship with his daughter, Linda, is to the fore. A gripping debut and definitely one of the best of the 32 episodes.

Watercooler fact: Henning Mankell was so deeply affected by the death of Johanna Sällström, aged 32, who suffered from depression and had narrowly survived the 2004 tsunami in Thailand with her daughter, that he was unable to write the last two novels of a planned trilogy about Linda Wallander.

The Bridge 3, BBC4, with Sofia Helin

Programme Name: The Bridge - TX: n/a - Episode: The Bridge - series 3 (No. n/a) - Picture Shows: Saga Norén (SOFIA HELIN) - (C) Carolina Romare - Photographer: Carolina Romare

Bridge over troubled water: Saga faces a personal crisis

Saga Noren returns – without Martin Rohde – in a typically strange, chilling new investigation

★★★½

BBC4, date and time to be announced

SERIES 2 finished on a shattering note with the arrest for murder of one of The Bridge‘s two principles, Martin Rohde. Together with his detective partner Saga Noren, the characters had defined one of the most original and popular of the new wave of Nordic noir series.

Now series 3 is here, but Martin is not. Kim Bodnia, the lugubrious actor who had played straight man to Sofia Helin’s Asperger’s detective, did not like the direction the show’s writers wanted to take Martin, so he left.

Like Laurel without Hardy, or Lennon without McCartney, there is no doubt the show’s chemistry is upset. However, The Bridge is largely Saga’s story and on first glimpse of the new series I would say there is a good chance that the writers could be about to take her in intriguing new directions.

We meet her again as she about to be plunged into another weird and chilling new case. A Danish woman, a campaigner for lesbian and gay rights, is found murdered in a grotesque tableau with a group of mannequins, all having lurid smiles lipsticked onto their faces. Because she has been discovered in Malmo, Sweden, Saga is called in, once again partnered with a detective from Denmark.

So far, so familiar. But there is needle in the relationship, as Saga’s new sidekick resents her as the woman who is responsible for getting Martin imprisoned. And then Saga’s robot-like mask cracks a little when her boss, Hans Petterson, asks why she never mentions Martin, to whom she had grown close despite their initially awkward relationship.

She replies that she will visit him, but only when he is released in nine-and-a-half years. ‘I can’t associate with murderers’ – which is as close as she’s ever going to get to saying that she misses him badly.

The opening episode ends explosively for Saga

With her new partner, Saga investigates Morten Anker, the alienated and volatile son of the victim, who suffers from post-traumatic stress after serving in Afghanistan. As Saga and her partner close in, the opening episode ends explosively, and we see our heroine plunged into a personal crisis like none we’ve ever seen her in before.

Bridge fans will no doubt be disappointed that Kim Bodnia has departed, but by the end of the episode they will probably be hanging on to see what happens next.

Creator and writer Hans Rosenfeldt has a genius for coming up with twisted killers and he’s done it again. It will be fascinating to see what he does with his next thriller, Marcella, which has been commissioned by ITV, set in London and stars Anna Friel.

Check out…

Sofia Helin on the new series

Kim Bodnia leaves The Bridge

The Last Panthers, Sky Atlantic, Samantha Morton

Tahar Rahim as Khalil

Panther hunter – Tahar Rahim as Khalil

A gritty, riveting Euro-drama with a blockbuster cast and superb writing, direction and production 

★★★★½ Sky Atlantic, Thursday, 12 November, 9pm

WHILE we Brits prepare for the referendum to decide whether to go it alone outside of the EU, Sky Atlantic has embraced the Continent with this bold and ambitious Euro co-production.

It’s a big, complex tale about the real-life Pink Panthers gang of jewel thieves, the Balkan-based network of ex-servicemen and criminals who carried audacious and spectacular gem raids throughout Europe. At the same time, it offers a glimpse of the pan-European crime scene and the fallout from the breakdowns of the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia.

It’s also a far more sophisticated drama than mainstream whodunits of the sort set around Oxford and Midsomer. And finally, with a terrific script and direction, knockout cast and title music from David Bowie, it must be the best series Sky has ever made.

The Pink Panthers hit Marseille

First, the story. Episode one kicks off with a heart-pounding heist in a marble-clad jewellery store in Marseille. This is being carried out by members of the spectacularly successful gang dubbed the Pink Panthers by the media.

The Last Panthers, Sky Atlantic

Samantha Morton as Naomi

However, as Milan Novak (Goran Bogdan) and his team flee the scene, the robbery goes badly wrong and an innocent girl is shot dead. English insurance company loss adjustor Naomi (Samantha Morton) is ordered to Belgrade, where the gang has its base, by her boss Tom (John Hurt) to recover the gems.

While her involvement annoys French detective Khalil (Tahar Rahim), Naomi’s return to the Balkans revives bad memories of her time in the military when she served there on behalf of the UN during the mid-90s conflict.

[Read more…]

Arne Dahl series 2, BBC4

Big shot – Gunnar, 'probably Sweden's strongest policeman'

Big shot – Gunnar, ‘probably Sweden’s strongest policeman’

The Swedish cops are back to blast a hole in BBC4’s Saturday nights 

★★★½ BBC4, week of Saturday, 17 October

SWEDEN’S A-Team – or A Unit, as they prefer – is back for a second series of the cop-action show that proved a break-out hit on BBC4 in 2013.

As Nordic aficionados know, these stories are based on the crime novels of Jan Arnald, under the pen name Arne Dahl. The first series was a big enough international success to propel Matias Varela, who played the hacker member of the team, Jorge Chavez, to Hollywood for the blockbuster Point Break. Alexander Salzberger takes over the role in this new series.

Close liaison – Paul and Kerstin

Close liaison – Paul and Kerstin

It opens with a two-parter, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, picking up the action a couple of years after the first series. Paul Hjelm is now divorced and in a relationship with Kerstin. While he is now in charge of the internal affairs section, she is made head of the A Unit to investigate a nasty outbreak of Polish mafia murders in Sweden.

The old gang are reunited, including Gunnar – ‘Probably Sweden’s strongest policeman’ – Arto the analyst, and Jorge, of course. Sara is the team’s expert on paedophile crimes, also returns, while Ida – pronounced Eeda – is the new face, and a multilingual asset.

Polish hitman on the loose

Arne Dahl series 2

A Unit – Sara Svenhagen (Vera Vitali), Jorge Chavez (Alexander Salberger), Arto Söderstedt (Niklas Akerfelt), Kerstin Holm (Malin Arvidsson), Ida Jankowicz (Natalie Minnevik), Gunnar Nyberg (Magnus Samuelsson), Paul Hjelm (Shanti Roney)

Arne Dahl is a fast-paced, multi-stranded mix of personal cop stories and brutal crime, and this latest offering sticks to the formula. The crimes being probed involve Polish hitmen taking out female health workers from Poznan, who’ve fled an ingenious funeral racket.

That’s right, funerals. The Polish godfathers control the funeral business and upped demand for their services by having the health workers euthanise old folk in their care.

Trouble is, some of the women have fled to Sweden and the men chasing them think nothing of marching through Swedish hospitals shooting anyone who might cross them.

It’s not as good or original as The Killing or The Bridge, but Arne Dahl is a smartly made and pretty gripping action-drama. Scandi fans will be mumbling tack as the series steps into the slot left by Beck on BBC4.

The Last Panthers title sequence with David Bowie

David Bowie writes title track for The Last Panthers

David Bowie The Last Panters

David Bowie has written the title music for The Last Panthers, his first such soundtrack contribution for 20 years

Samantha Morton in Sky Atlantic's The Last Panthers

Samantha Morton as Naomi in The Last Panthers

Wowie Bowie! The man himself has written and recorded the title music for Sky Atlantic’s big new thriller six-parter The Last Panthers. Starring Samantha Morton and John Hurt this is a trans-Euro production about banksters and heists. Director Johan Renck says: ‘I was looking for one of the icons of my youth to write the music for the title sequence, but was presented with a God. His first response was precise, engaged and curious. The piece of music he laid before us embodied every aspect of our characters and the series itself – dark, brooding, beautiful and sentimental (in the best possible incarnation of this word). All along, the man inspired and intrigued me and as the process passed, I was overwhelmed with his generosity. I still can’t fathom what actually happened…’

 

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