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…

Matrioshki, Sky Arts1, Belgian crime drama

Matrioshki, Sky Arts

ARRIVING on Sky Arts1 tonight is the 2005 Belgian crime drama Matrioshki, the story of 10 young impoverished eastern European women lured to Belgium with the promise of a better life.

Confrontation in Matrioshki on Sky Arts

You’ve guessed it. It’s a trap, and prostitution is the name of the game for the gangsters who lure them there. In tonight’s opener (at 10.15pm) the Belgian mafia arrives in Vilnius, Lithuania, and auditions the young women, before asking them to sign a contract – which is written in Greek. Arriving in town at the same time is Nico Maes, a journalist who warns the women not to sign…

I haven’t yet seen Matrioshki – which apparently means doll –  and it sounds like a strong subject. A review will follow soon, but beware of the scenes of sex and violence. A second season followed in 2007.

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Salamander, BBC4, Belgian cop show with Filip Peeters PREVIEW

Joachim Klaus leads the raid on the Jonkhere bank which targets members of the secret society “Salamander" Joachim Klaus (KOEN DE BOUW), Salamander BBC4
Klaus leads the early-morning raid on the Jonkhere bank. Pics: BBC

Rating: ★★★★

BBC4: starts Saturday, 8 February, 9pm

Story: Disguised as builders, a group of robbers descend on a top Belgium private bank – but the burglars have no eye for money or other valuables…

FOLLOWING the superb second series of The Bridge, BBC4 virtually has a captive audience for its Saturday night slot who are now craving the next brilliant foreign language crime series.

Salamander should satisfy their addiction. It doesn’t have such great characters as Saga and Martin, but it is a very slick thriller – taut, polished and gripping.

So, Belgium is the next stop on the tour of crime-ravaged Europe. Salamander starts with a beautifully executed raid on the vaults of a private bank, via a manhole in the street.

‘There’s a traitor in our midst’

To the throb of a synthesiser beat, the well choreographed heist sees the team break into the vault and carefully select 66 of 800 safety deposit boxes. These contain the dirty photos and sensitive documents that could compromise the country’s industrial, royal and political elite.

The plot thickens nicely when the head of the bank, Jonkhere, who looks like a bald-headed Bond villain, realises this is no normal robbery. ‘There’s a traitor in our midst,’ he says, and decrees that the crime must not be reported to the police.

This is where our maverick cop enters. We first encounter Paul Gerardi in bed badgering his wife for a ‘quickie’. She declines and leaves for work. Not very Bond-like.

Sarah Geradi (AN MILLER), Salamander BBC4
Gerardi’s wife, Sarah

Filip Peeters as Paul Gerardi

However, work impinges on his leisurely morning when he hears from a discredited snitch that a major heist has gone down in the city. While Gerardi is dubious and his superiors totally dismissive, a toll of murder and suicide prompts the inspector to dig deeper.

Action and intrigue are the ingredients of the high-octane opening episode, but once the pace settles it will be interesting to see how Gerardi measures up to recent Saturday night heroes Sarah Lund, Saga Noren and Martin Rohde.

Despite the indifference of his wife, will the white-haired Gerardi become a new sex symbol for Saturday nights? Who is trying to disrupt the state by stealing all those boxes? And who is Salamander?

Cast: Filip Peeters Paul Gerardi, Koen De Bouw Joachim Klaus, Mike Verdrengh Raymond Jonkhere, Violet Braeckman Sofie Gerardi, Lucas Van den Eynde Carl Cassimon, Jo De Meyere Procureur-generaal Armand Persigal, Koen van Impe Vic Adams, Warre Borgmans  Commissaris Martin Colla, Vic de Wachter Gil Wolfs, Tine Reymer Patricia Wolfs

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Salamander: BBC4’s new Belgian thriller for Saturdays


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