Doors Open starring Stephen Fry, Douglas Henshall, ITV1 PREVIEW

Rating: ★★★½ 

: Boxing Day, 9pm

Story: After an evening’s drinking with Professor Gissing, an art expert, and banker Allan Cruickshank, self-made millionaire Mike McKenzie and his friends dream up a plot to rip-off one of the most high-profile targets in the country – Edinburgh’s private art collection owned by a national bank.

If Doors Open were an album, it would be an easy-listening release – pleasant, amusing and fairly slick.

So, this is an amiable two hours, with Stephen Fry, Douglas Henshall and Lenora Crichlow as the lead crooners in a heist drama, based on Ian Rankin’s 2008 novel.

It’s good to see Fry stepping away from his gadgets and QI to play what he would surely have become had he not been seduced by showbiz – a professor.

Art expert Prof Gissing sees himself as ‘more an elitist than a snob’, and it’s a role that’s barely a stretch for Fry. Gissing is the prime mover among a group of friends who decide to take a walk on the wild side and rip off valuable works of art during Edinburgh’s Doors Open day.

Ian Rankin and Stephen Fry on set

Douglas Henshall and Lenora Crichlow
This is an occasion when landmark buildings open their doors to the public and invite them to look round areas that are usually off-limits. A gallery’s warehouse housing a bank’s  collection of masterpieces is the trio’s target, with the plan being to replace the originals with forgeries.

Each member of the threesome has a reason to snatch a picture. Gissing is outraged that the collection he has made for the bank is now being sold from under him, so he wants to ‘liberate’ some artworks.

Selfmade millionaire Mike (Douglas Henshall, soon to be seen in new detective drama Shetland) is losing the woman (Lenora Crichlow) and the painting he loves to the man responsible for selling the bank’s collection, Bruce Cameron. He’s not prepared to have both swiped from him. And Allan (Kenneth Collard) has been sacked by the bank.

Gangster Charlie Calloway (Brian McCardie)
The plot is stirred nicely when Mike suggests they link up with Charlie Calloway, a gangster with whom he was at school. It’s a mighty risk – and provides complications galore, particularly as Charlie wants a painting of his own to pay off a debt to Mr Big – but Charlie has the muscle and know-how to help these amateurs.

Mike and Laura finds the heist get complicated

It’s snappily directed, pacey, has a cool soundtrack, and was adapted for TV by James Mavor and Sandi Toksvig. On the crime-genre Richter scale it’s much closer to Ealing Studios than Tarantino, but that makes it nicely in season for Christmas viewing.

Lost in the plot – Allan
The mechanics of any heist usually makes for gripping action, hence the caper genre being so full of hit movies – The Killing, The Anderson Tapes, The Thomas Crown Affair, Reservoir Dogs, The Italian Job, Ocean’s Eleven and so on.

One thing that is lost in all the twists and double-crosses of this one is Allan’s story. We find out what happens to Mike, Gissing and Laura at the end, but Allan is discreetly forgotten.

Still, Doors Open manages to keep the tension high. And there’s a couple of sweet twists just to ladle on the jeopardy – and romance.

Cast: Dougie Henshall Mike McKenzie, Stephen Fry Professor Gissing, Lenora Crichlow Laura Stanton, Kenneth Collard Allan Cruickshank , Brian McCardie Charlie Calloway, Elliot Cowan Bruce Cameron, Rab Affleck Hate, Paul McCole Glenno, Jordan Young Jonno

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Inside Men starring Steven Mackintosh PREVIEW

Blag of nerves – honest John (Steven Mackintosh) steps up. Pic: BBC

Rating: ★★★★

BBC1, starts Thursday, 2 February, 9pm

Story: John Coniston manages a highly secure cash counting house. One day he finds himself in the middle of a terrifying, bloody armed robbery. Flash back to nine months earlier and John is confronting two employees he suspects to siphoning off £50,000. They expect boring, playsafe John to call the cops, but John offers them a way out…

Television is so obsessed with whodunits and police procedurals that it usually leaves the heist escapades to the movies.

Inside Men breaks that pattern with a intriguing character study of three guys who, because of their individual problems and insecurities, decide to step out of their comfort zones and risk everything by attempting a £15million robbery.

Steven Mackintosh, Ashley Walters and Warren Brown perfectly manage the haunted looks of the men saying no more Mr Nice Guy. This is a caper without geezers, just three beta males who want to be alpha.

Warren Brown and Kierston Wareing
Mackintosh plays the mouse-like John Coniston, manager of a cash counting house who looks like he’s going to be sick every time a fiver goes missing. So desperate is he to maintain his generally unblemished monthly record at the staff bonus party that he replaces a missing £240 from his own wallet.

Also working at the depot is forklift driver Marcus (Warren Brown), an irresponsible dreamer with debts and a loving, lairy wife, Gina (Kierston Wareing). Chris (Ashley Walters) is the security guard with an alcoholic mother, who lands a new girlfriend and suddenly wants to get out of his miserable rut.

The opening episode of this four-parter kicks off with pounding tension as masked robbers hit the depot. Events then backtrack nine months and we get an insight into the lives of the three principals.

Going for broke
The narrative flashes back and forth, cleverly keeping the viewer on edge. Steven Mackintosh holds the whole thing together as the head-down drone with a plodding marriage who suddenly decides to go for broke.

Warren Brown breezes through as reckless Marcus, and only Ashley Walters is playing against type as timid and shy.

Written by Tony Basgallop (EastEnders, Being Human, Hotel Babylon), this is full of sharp character strokes – such as John’s awful mateyness with a boss who clearly thinks he’s a loser – that  keep you watching to how the desperadoes get through this.

It’s an involving, tense opener that’s right on the money.

Cast: Steven Mackintosh John, Ashley Walters Chris, Warren Brown Marcus, Kierston Wareing Gina, Leila Mimmack Dita, Nicola Walker Kirsty, Hannah Merry Olivia, Tom Mannion Gordon, Ruth Gemmell Rebecca, Paul Popplewell  Tom

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