Dark Heart, ITV Encore

From ITV Studios Dark Heart on ITV Encore Pictured: The Killer. This photograph is (C) ITV Plc and can only be reproduced for editorial purposes directly in connection with the programme or event mentioned above, or ITV plc. Once made available by ITV plc Picture Desk, this photograph can be reproduced once only up until the transmission [TX] date and no reproduction fee will be charged. Any subsequent usage may incur a fee. This photograph must not be manipulated [excluding basic cropping] in a manner which alters the visual appearance of the person photographed deemed detrimental or inappropriate by ITV plc Picture Desk. This photograph must not be syndicated to any other company, publication or website, or permanently archived, without the express written permission of ITV Plc Picture Desk. Full Terms and conditions are available on the website www.itvpictures.com For further information please contact: james.hilder@itv.com

Brutal – The Killer in Dark Heart

Twisting two-hour tale of revenge murders that seems designed to launch a new cop series

★★★ ITV Encore, week of 5 November (day to be announced)

THE START is grisly, featuring the kind of slow murder that London probably hasn’t seen since the Middle Ages.

It’s the first of a series of horror killings, all featuring suspected paedophiles as the victims. However, if you can get past the grim murder spree, Dark Hart is a diverting tale with good lead characters.

Investigator: Staffe (Tom Riley)

Investigator: Staffe (Tom Riley)

Detective Inspector William Wagstaffe (Tom Riley), is the focus. He is haunted by the murder of his parents during a family holiday in Spain when he was 16 years old. The killers are still at large and ‘Staffe’ is unable to let go until he finds them.

The women in Staffe’s life

By day, Staffe has to keep his cynical officers focused on tracking down a killer who most feel is doing a good job. These include DC Josie Chancellor (Anjli Mohindra), DS Dave Pulford (Kobna Holdbrook-Smith) and DS Rick Johnson (Tom Brooke).

By night he has an on-off relationship with Sylvie (Miranda Raison) and a close but fractious time with his sister, Juliette (Charlotte Riley).

 Juliette [Charlotte Riley]. This photograph is (C) ITV Plc and can only be reproduced for editorial purposes directly in connection with the programme or event mentioned above, or ITV plc. Once made available by ITV plc Picture Desk, this photograph can be reproduced once only up until the transmission [TX] date and no reproduction fee will be charged. Any subsequent usage may incur a fee. This photograph must not be manipulated [excluding basic cropping] in a manner which alters the visual appearance of the person photographed deemed detrimental or inappropriate by ITV plc Picture Desk. This photograph must not be syndicated to any other company, publication or website, or permanently archived, without the express written permission of ITV Plc Picture Desk. Full Terms and conditions are available on the website www.itvpictures.com

Sister – Juliette (Charlotte Riley)

Based on a novel by Adam Creed, the set-up is interesting, but as depicted on screen never really convinces. Staffe’s troubled soul somehow fails to chime with the on-going story, which is heavily concerned with moody interiors and time-lapse sequences.

It’s not in the same league as Happy Valley or even the currently unfolding Paranoid and The Level.

Still, the investigation – once the horror show is put aside – is surprising and holds your interest. The end packs a wallop and Staffe is left in a place where it seems likely he may be brought back for more adventures.

Peaky Blinders 2, BBC2, with Cillian Murphy, Helen McCrory, Sam Neill, Tom Hardy PREVIEW

Arthur Shelby (Paul Anderson), Thomas Shelby (Cillian Murphy), John Shelby (Joe Cole)
Flash mob – Arthur, Tommy and Joe paint London town red. Pics: BBC

Rating: ★★★★

BBC2: starts Thursday, 2 October, 9pm  

Story: As the 1920s begin to roar, business is booming for Birmingham’s Peaky Blinders gang. Shelby starts to expand his legal and illegal operations, with sights set on the race tracks of the South. The only problem is, the London Jewish and Italian gangs are in his way…

PEAKY BLINDERS has muscled in on new turf in British television. The Beeb and ITV have rarely ever ventured into the full-blown gangster drama.

Peaky Blinders pub is blown up
Boom town – the new series gets an explosive start

BSkyB gave it a go with a couple of nasty series based on Martina Cole’s novels (Tom Hardy was particularly good in 2009’s The Take), but the mainstream broadcasters have generally stuck with heist jobs (Widows, Inside Men), cop series (The Sweeney, New Tricks, Lewis, Scott & Bailey etc etc), cosies (Poirot, Father Brown), serial killers (The WidowerThe Fall) and whodunits (Broadchurch, Murder on the Home Front).

When they have featured gangsters, such as in C4’s The Fear in 2012, starring Peter Mullan, it’s all a bit small scale. There have been some classic Brit gangster movies, of course – Brighton Rock, The Long Good Friday, Get Carter, Sexy Beast for starters – but TV has largely steered clear.

England’s little-known gangster past

Why is that? While Britain has never had the wild illegality of Prohibition or the industrial scale Gomorrah to see how enormously international the Neapolitan crime empire is), there have been major crime groups here that have somehow never sparked a major TV drama.

Charlie Strong (Ned Dennehy), May Carleton (Charlotte Riley), Thomas Shelby (Cillian Murphy)
Charlotte Riley is the aristocrat May Carleton

criminality of the Mafia or the Camorra (read Roberto Saviano’s terrifying

Oddly enough, one of the few UK television series to get into gang culture was also set in Peaky Blinders‘ rarely portrayed hometown of Birmingham. The BBC’s Gangsters, starring Maurice Colbourne and Saeed Jaffrey, ran for two series from 1976 and featured the city’s multi-cultural criminal community, along with strong violence and bold storytelling.

But even so, there’s never been a series made here that has leant as heavily on the American gangster tradition as Peaky Blinders does. Creator Steven Knight has drawn on the stories he’d heard as a lad about Birmingham’s post-First World War gangs with razors in the peaks of their flat caps – and conjured up England’s little known gangster past.

Tommy Shelby’s face-off with London’s gangs

This second series has really found its feet, too. The action steps into the 1920s as Tommy Shelby

Aunt Polly Gray (Helen McCrory), Thomas Shelby (Cillian Murphy)
Tension between Aunt Polly and Tommy

plans to boldly break into the lucrative illegal race-track gambling in the South, currently run by London’s vicious Jewish and Italian gangs.

It’s a brash gamble that Aunt Polly (Helen McCrory) and younger brother John Shelby (Joe Cole) are concerned about. With everything going so well in Brum, why stick their neck out?

In fact, problems are mounting for Tommy in his hometown, with Irish terrorists causing him a lot of grief and Sam Neill’s virtually psychotic Chief Inspector Campbell back gunning for him. All of which makes Tommy’s Southern move particularly risky.

Brum is grittier than Downton Abbey

So many British TV dramas milk a soppy faux past to give the action a vintage feel. Father Brown, WPC 56, Murder on the Home Front, Downton Abbey – all have a period gloss because TV honchos obviously think viewers are seduced by sham history.

Peaky Blinders, in contrast, has soot under its fingernails. Steve Knight takes the history seriously and has pored over old editions of the Birmingham Evening Mail and books about the era to research his story.

It is an absorbing portrait of that time, much as Boardwalk Empire, currently in its last series on Sky Atlantic, is also a fascinating window on Prohibition. The black streets of industrial Birmingham with their blast furnaces and the throb of machinery on the soundtrack create a suitably hellish vision of the city.

Alfie Solomons (Tom Hardy)
Big shot – Tom Hardy as gang boss Alfie Solomons

Tom Hardy as gang leader Alfie Solomons

Cillian Murphy is again on good form as the emotionally dead soldier turned gang leader. The sets and the cast are bigger and the raucous soundtrack – everything from Nick Cave to Johnny Cash – is pounding as in series one. The opener finishes with a particularly brutal finale that poses a powder keg of dramatic possibilities for the ensuing episodes.

And with Tom Hardy – superb in Knight’s fine claustrophobic movie Locke and whose casting is a coup for a BBC drama – about to arrive in episode two as gangster Alfie Solomons, Peaky Blinders should become cult viewing this time round.

Cast: Cillian Murphy Thomas Shelby, Sam Neill Chester Campbell, Helen McCrory Aunt Polly, Paul Anderson Arthur Shelby, Joe Cole John Shelby, Charlotte Riley May Carleton, Tom Hardy Alfie Solomons, Noah Taylor Sabini

Check out these links…
Peaky Blinders series one
Peaky Blinders playlists
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