Hand of God, Amazon Prime, launches in London

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Marc Forster, Ron Perlman, Dana Delaney and Alona Tal at the London launch of Hand of God 

LONDON WAS the setting for the launch of Amazon Prime’s new original series Hand of God last night. The venue, suitably enough for a drama about a judge who fancies himself as the Lord’s instrument of vengeance, was in a deconsecrated church on Euston Road.

The stars –Ron Perlman, Dana Delaney and Alona Tal – glammed up for the occasion (well, the ladies did), and they were joined by the director Marc Forster, who’s known for World War Z and Quantum of Solace, along with writer/creator Ben Watkins, whose credits include Burn Notice.

The trailer above makes the show look a little off-kilter, and the screened episode lived up to its potent promise. The tale follows a corrupt judge, Pernell Harris, played by Perlman, whose son tries to shoot himself to death following the rape of his wife. The son, PJ, ends up on a life support machine and Pernell’s life spirals into a strange path of visions and his belief in messages from his son, whom he believes can be resurrected – despite medical opinion – if Pernell carries out God’s work.

Ron Perlman and Dana Delaney in Hand of God

Ron Perlman and Dana Delaney in Hand of God

It’s a story that might upset some religious viewpoints, but Hand of God is a serious attempt to probe questions of belief and convictions. Ben Watkins spoke after the screening about what inspired him to write it: ‘I’ve always been fascinated by zealotry and fanaticism. Through history there have been people who became fanatics, and there is a certain power that comes with that.’

Ron Perlman said his stint in the recently finished Sons of Anarchy made him realise how ‘charged’ cable television had become in recent years, allowing networks such as FX in the States to produce shows that were a ‘little bit dangerous, controversial’.

Dana Delaney, star of ABC’s mainstream crime show Body of Proof, also welcomed the gear change of subscription TV’s output. ‘It’s exciting,’ she said. ‘You can swear, smoke pot, get naked – all the things actors like to do. But it all comes down to the storytelling.’

Which brought the panel to Perlman’s eye-popping scene in the pilot when he dances naked in a fountain speaking in tongues. ‘My shaking was not controlled,’ he said. ‘It was a reaction to hypothermia.’

Hand of God starts streaming on Amazon Prime on Friday, 4 September.

Major new crime dramas for autumn

The Last Panthers, Hand of God, Narcos, Lucky Man, The Five

THE SETTING at the exclusive top-floor club of London’s Gherkin was swanky enough to impress to the shady ‘banksters’ featured in Sky Atlantic‘s ambitious new Euro-thriller The Last Panthers.IMG_0844

The channel had taken over the glass eyrie with its mesmerising views of the capital, pictured right, to treat journalists from Britain and France to a glimpse of the work in progress. TV critics from The Times, The Guardian and Heat, along with CrimeTimePreview, mingled with Sky’s MD of Content Gary Davey before viewing selected scenes from the multi-lingual crime drama, starring Samantha Morton, Tahar Rahim and John Hurt.

The dinner event and wonderful location were a sign that Sky Atlantic has high hopes for this sophisticated series. It’s a partnership production between Sky Atlantic, Canal + and Sky Deutschland and is filmed in London, Marseille, Belgrade and Montenegro.

The story is based on an idea by French journalist Jerome Pierrat, an expert on Europe-wide crime. It is inspired by the Pink Panthers, Interpol’s name for a real gang of Serbs and Montenegrins, several of them former soldiers, who performed audacious jewel heists, targeting several countries.IMG_0841

The drama begins with a tense jewel robbery, but the story also shifts the narrative back to 1995 and traces the roots of the gang. It looks like a big, sweeping thriller. Samantha Morton glams down for the role of the loss adjustor sent to Balkans, while John Hurt is the seasoned honcho who’s her boss. In English, French and Serbian, The Last Panthers looks to have a lot more going on in it than your average episode of Lewis.

It’s scheduled for November…

Moving on, just take a look at this new series coming from Amazon Prime on 4 September. Hand of God! starring Golden Globe winner Ron Perlman, fresh from Sons of Anarchy, looks just a little unhinged. He’s playing a bent judge in a bind who seems to think he’s  been chosen by God himself to seek vengeance. It’s certainly off-kilter enough to be worth a gander.

Netflix also has a major new crime drama streaming soon. Narcos is a big show telling the story of US and Colombian efforts during the 1980s to take on the mega-powerful Medellin drug cartel. The trailer makes what is a complex and bloody story look like a rollicking good action series, but trailers can be misleading. It will be interesting to see if Netflix can do this huge story justice.

Finally, Sky1 also has two intriguing series looming. Lucky Man stars James Nesbitt in a high-concept series created by comic-book legend Stan Lee (co-creator of Spider-Man, the Hulk etc). Nesbitt plays a cop from London’s Murder Squad who is given an ancient bracelet that gives him the ability to control luck. This has an attractive cast, including Eve Best, Sienna Guillory and Darren Boyd, and what could be a fascinating premise.

Co-creator Neil Biswas says: ‘Is the bracelet really bringing him luck, or is it just another manifestation of the gambling addiction that has always plagued him?’

There is also a lot of buzz around The Five, bestselling thriller author Harlan Coben‘s first original story for TV. Created by Coben, writer of novels such as Tell No One and Gone for Good, and scripted by Bafta-winner Danny Brocklehurst, this 10-parter follows a group of friends haunted by a terrible incident in their childhood. It stars Tom Cullen, O-T Fagbenle, Lee Ingleby and Geraldine James.

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