Harlan Coben’s The Five, Sky1

The Five Episode 01 Danny (O-T Fagbenle). Ben Blackall 2015 for © RED PRODUCTION COMPANY LIMITED

One of The Five – Danny (O-T Fagbenle)

Twists galore await in this original Harlan Coben thriller from Sky1

★★★½ Sky1, Friday, 15 April, 9pm

HARLAN COBEN is highly rated as one of the best thriller novelists around today. A lot of my colleagues at crime-fiction site Shotsmag can’t wait for his latest book.

His award-winning mysteries often involve secrets from the past resurfacing and multiple twists. Perhaps best known of his books is Tell No One, which was turned into the 2006 French film Ne le dis à personne.

The Five Episode 01 Mark (Tom Cullen) hugs Pru (Sarah Solemani), Slade (Lee Ingleby) and Danny (O-T Fagbenle) look on. Ben Blackall 2015 for © RED PRODUCTION COMPANY LIMITED

Reunited – Mark hugs Pru as Slade and Danny look on

The surprising thing is that more of his multi-million-selling books have not had screen makeovers. There have been occasional reports that books such as Gone for Good were being worked on by the likes of NBC, but little has surfaced to date.

An original thriller from Harlan Coben

Which makes Sky1’s new series all the more exciting for Coben fans and thriller devotees. The Five is based on an idea Coben had planned to turn into a novel, but instead the author worked with top scriptwriter Danny Brocklehurst (The Driver, Accused, Shameless) to give Sky1 an exclusive and fresh 10-part thriller.

The premise is based on a tragedy from the childhoods of four friends. When they were 12 years old, Mark, Pru, Danny and Slade abandoned Mark’s five-year-old brother, Jesse, in the woods. The lad was never seen again.

In adulthood, Danny, now a detective, gets involved in a murder case. At the scene of the crime, Jesse’s DNA is found. So, is he still alive? If so, is he a murderer? [Read more…]

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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Exile starring John Simm PREVIEW

Tom (John Simm) and the barmaid, Mandy (Claire Goose). Pics: BBC

Rating ★★★★½

BBC1 Sunday, 1 May, 9pm

John Simm is one of the most interesting and watchable actors on British television. He must also be one of the sharpest judges of scripts, because whether he picks something popular, such as Doctor Who or Life on Mars, or something punchier, State of Play or Mad Dogs, the 40-year-old is always believable but popular with it.

Here he teams up with Paul Abbott again (State of Play‘s writer) for a terrific noir thriller about a guy in crisis who ends up returning home and investigating his past.

Tom Ronstadt is an unpleasant swine. He’s a London journalist on a lads’ mag who ‘implodes’, loses the glam job that he’s come to despise and gets dumped by his girlfriend, taking his leave of her by whacking her in the face.

Oscar-winner Jim Broadbent
In turmoil, he returns to his northern hometown for the first time in 18 years. His sister, Nancy (a heartfelt performance by Olivia Colman), has been left looking after their father, Alzheimer-sufferer Sam, a former news journalist, played by Oscar-winner Jim Broadbent.

It was Sam’s savage attack on Tom, whom he’d caught rifling through his papers, that sent the young man into exile down south. What had Tom come close to discovering? The question nags him, and while Nancy urges him to forget the past, but the wound hurts too much, and Tom starts digging.

At first Jim Broadbent seems to have a thankless role to play, stripping off at inappropriate times, barely able to hold a conversation, shouting, occasionally violent. But he is, of course, the key to the story, if only Tom can pierce his mental fog, and Sam becomes a tantalising presence, offering moments of lucidity, even retaining the ability to play the piano with feeling while his brain’s on auto-pilot.

The part that made John Simm’s career
The core of the story is this painful father-son relationship, and behind Tom’s anger is his feeling that they were once a happy family. He remembers a time when there were no rows, no outbursts. ‘What changed?’ he asks the unresponsive Sam.

Danny Brocklehurst, the writer, has produced a drama that is strong and character-focused throughout (Paul Abbott, who effectively made John Simm’s career with the part he wrote for him in Cracker, is the creator of Exile). Even the secondary characters have heart. Mike (Shaun Dooley), the school best mate Tom left behind and with whose barmaid wife Tom sleeps without realising whom she is married to, is a sad, believable figure.

Often, character is revealed  in the little things, such as the way Tom despises the trashy hatchet journalist he became, in comparison to the campaigning newsman that Sam was. The only bum note here is the lavish lifestyle magazine writing seems to have provided for Tom – minimalist designer flat, expensive sports car – that will have most journalists rolling on the carpet.

The Metzler mystery
And then there is the nagging mystery, centring around the name Metzler, which Tom had seen all those years ago just before his father’s assault. Metzler (Timothy West), a business man, is now the leader of the council.

A strong year for crime dramas – there are four excellent series launching in the first week of May alone (Vera, Exile, The Shadow Line, Case Sensitive) – but Exile is definitely one that will lodge in the memory.

Sam (Jim Broadbent) and Tom

Cast: John Simm Tom Ronstadt, Jim Broadbent Sam Ronstadt, Olivia Colman Nancy, Claire Goose Mandy, Shaun Dooley Mike, Timothy West Metzler
Writer Danny Brocklehurst, creator Paul Abbott

• crime zapper •

• Two of Britain’s most watchable actors, John Simm and Jim Broadbent, have just started filming a new psychological thriller called Exile, created by Paul Abbott and written by Danny Brocklehurst (The Street, Sorted and Clocking Off). The drama, which is being filmed in Manchester, will unfold in three hour-long episodes and follows Tom (Simm) as he returns to his hometown to delve into the truth of events that occurred between him and his father, Sam (Broadbent). Tom is a journalist whose life and career are in ruins, and his once formidable father has Alzheimer’s, and is being cared for by Tom’s sister, Nancy (Olivia Coleman). Trying to prod his father’s failing memory, Tom wants to unearth what really happened 18 years before, only to uncover a devastating crime. The cracking cast is boosted by Shaun Dooley, Timothy West and Claire Goose. Paul Abbott has written some of the boldest and spikiest dramas on UK TV in recent years, including Shameless, State of Play and Touching Evil, and Exile promises to be a must-see drama. Abbott says, ‘Creating the series came from looking at the effect events have on families – and how that changes lives forever. Working with John [Simm] again is always a pleasure, he does seem to have turned into a muse of mine, and I’m delighted that we have the calibre of Jim [Broadbent] alongside him.’ Simm, who before appearing in the recent hit Life on Mars was excellent in State of Play, says, ‘Danny’s written a great script, it’s a wonderful cast, and I can’t wait to start work.’ Exile will go out on BBC1 next year.

• If you hate Mondays, Radio 4‘s Charles Paris mystery Murder in the Title should raise a grin. Bill Nighy returns as the waster actor-cum-sleuth. This is a lively and fun four-parter, and Nighy is appealingly reckless as the out-of-work thesp easily distracted by women and booze. When a small role in a terrible play in Rugland comes his way, his ‘semi-ex-wife’ Frances virtually boots him out of the door. Soon nasty accidents befall cast and crew, and ‘unprofessional’ Charles falls foul of the various pompous has-beens in the ensemble, before he is nearly stabbed through a canvas screen… Written by Jeremy Front from the novel by Simon Brett, Murder in the Title is on Monday, 22 Nov, at 11.30am. Or catch it on iPlayer.

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