A 2004 BBC miniseries called Conviction, about the police investigation into a murder. It has a very strange start. It really feels like you've missed something, like there's been a previous episode and you haven't seen. It's a very effective technique, certainly, for immediately familiarising you with the characters. You immediately know that Joe is a rogue, Chrissy just wants to be popular and make everyone happy, the boss is bossy, the woman is a stereotype of insecure womanhood and the other one is otherworldly. Makes it feel like an established series, not the first episode of a one-off. Chrissey's desire to be popular and his characteristic of being easily manipulated by his seniors and being overeager to please is particularly clear. Just in the brief bit before the opening credits he has a bit of banter spoon fed to him, mouthed to him, by his brother and boss Roy, then when he tries to improvise a bit of wit himself he drops a clanger by basically calling the girl a slut, followed by silence from the group. He reminds me a bit of Melvin Smiley, from the film the Big Hit. Not a very popular film, there are disparate opinions as to whether it was meant to be a spoof or not, but I certainly enjoyed it. Starred Mark Wahlberg as an assassin who suffered terrible digestive trouble if he felt that people didn't like him, so he, for example, kowtowed to his fiancee and gave all his money to his other woman and let his fellow hitmen take the credit for what was overwhelmingly his work. A very clean cut sort of professional gangland killer, which is the sort of character Wahlberg generally plays. And very nearly played in real life on September the eleventh 2001. He plays the morally upright action hero, like the patsy in Shooter, not an amoral hero like a Schwartzenegger movie or a morally ambiguous but basically good hero like one of Bruce Willis' drunken and disgraced characters, a la Die Hard. An action hero for the modern age, because you don't really get that sort of corrupt cop so much anymore. Still plenty of corrupt cops, but they're corrupt in that they take money from drug dealers and stick it in Liechenstein trusts these days, but the more unprofessional type of cop who gets drunk on the job and takes harmless freebies is a lot less common now that it was even at the time of the first Die Hard movie. Nowadays a corrupt cop gets paid to look the other way by some multinational and takes a job writing for the papers on retirement as part of his payoff. Andy Hayman, I'm looking at you. I'm drifting. He's meant to be the hero of the piece, too, the sympathetic character, is Chrissey. Really one of the most pleasant things about this programme is that it's a very ensemble piece, every one of the characters has their own bit of story and they don't get shoved into the background only to be taken off the shelf when the plot demands it. Mind you, the plot always needs all the characters, it's one of the most densely plotted television programmes I've ever seen. The main theme is originally the murder of a young girl, found stabbed a few dozen times and dumped in a playground. I believe it's set somewhere in the north of England. The female rozzer, Lucy, is obviously Scottish but the rest seem to be local to that place and broadly northern. Doncaster is mentioned. The rapid characterisation continues as they get to the murder scene and look around. Robert the outsider heads straight for the top of the half-pipe to scream at passing aircraft. The rest do the usual TV police at a crime scene stuff. A phone rings, turns out to be the girls, and Lucy answers it. She does seem ineffective and lacking in confidence and comes across as the most junior of the cops except for Chrissy. In fact I was astonished when the second episode started, with her fobbing off an old man who was worried about a gang who had previously attacked him, saying to his question of "what if they come back" nothing but "they won't". The best fisherman isn't the one who catches the most fish, he's the one who enjoys fishing the most, according to Robert the outsider, who they call "the Buddha". Anyway, the girl doesn't know what's been said over the phone and the boss is very harsh about it. Later, when she's got a pat on the head from the boss, the Buddha says "I bet if I asked you now you could tell me what that lad said on the phone", and she can. He just waited, he says, till she was feeling good about herself. In fact throughout the first episode those two pal around with him taking a somewhat paternal interest in her, which is why it's astonishing that she turns out, as a great shock at the start of the second episode, to be a DS, a sergeant, while he's only a DC. Okay, he insists that others take the credit for his work and refuses promotions, but what possessed them to write her as a DS? They quickly find their first suspect, not based on any evidence but rather on doing what they call a "perv check". They check, turns out there is a perv in the local area, previously imprisoned for exposing himself to schoolgirls, so he immediately becomes their prime suspect in the non-sexual murder of a random child. They quickly build quite a compelling case against him, he knew the girl who came into his shop, he didn't have an alibi, the girl's bracelet, which her parents said she was wearing when she went out never to return, was found in his flat. And he's the local paedo. Joe and Chrissey, the rogue and the impressionable youngster, are sent to arrest him and stop at the side of the road on the way back to intimidate him a bit previous to questioning. You can tell the perv is crazy because he's praying. He manages to get Joe's goat up, not a great achievement, by saying "that which we hate most is that which we fear in ourselves", thereby implying that Joe is a paedo. He certainly had an unhealthy obsession with sex involving young girls, whether obsessing about a previous case of a raped and murdered young girl, to whom he keeps a shrine, or assaulting the boyfriend of his young daughter. But the paedo has an upturn in fortunes, turns out they haven't got any of what you might call "evidence" against him, and the modern police procedures handbook frowns upon taking prisoners for some private softening up before interview. So he's released back to his house where he lives with his mother and from which he issues forth only to work, pray and booze. That night is Joe's anniversary party, which he slightly disrupts by assaulting his daughter's boyfriend so that his family leave and he stays behind drinking with the police, before he, Chrissey and Chrissey's senile former cop father leave to drive home, an angry drunk, a cowardly drunk and a senile drunk driving away from a group of coppers. Unfortunately the father had said something unwise, that in his day they just took suspects "into the woods" and soon they'd be "confessing to shagging their own mothers". This gives Joe ideas and Chrissey, Mr Easily Led, drives him to the paedo's home where they watch, follow, and then kidnap him. Take him for a drive. Into the woods. He manages to slip his bus pass into the sleeping senile father's pocket before making a break for it into the woods. He's chased down and made to dig his own grave, purely as a form of intimidation, and told that if he wants to live he has to promise, cross his heart and hope to die, to go and confess first thing in the morning. HE agrees to do so, but then Joe realises he might be lying and asks how he can be sure. The paedo says "For Real", a reference to a mysterious tattoo on the dead girl which they'd been speculating about. Joe snaps at that and lashes out with the spade, leading to the paedo dying in the arms of Chrissey saying "I love you". Because he's crazy. Luckily there's a handy recently dug grave right there to receive the body. Joe gives the impression that he knows what he's doing, straight away gets down to business, "go home, burn your clothes", so on, you'd think he'd done this before. He hasn't though, in fact the guilt takes about ten minutes to destroy his fragile psyche. So the paedo is dead. Not the plan when the night started, but one less kiddie killer in the world. Chrissey goes off to see his woman, who agrees to marry him after a bit of murder-fuelled emotional honesty. Apparently the best quality in a marriage proposal is "not flippant". Meanwhile his sister has been busy, she, unmentioned by me until now due to all the other plot points, has been the paedo's defence brief and has found some CCTV footage establishing an alibi for the time of the killing. So he was innocent all along, meaning they now have no suspect and a mysterious disappearance of their former suspect. The episode ends with the senile old man asking "who was that man in the woods". And that's the first episode. It takes until the end of the third to find out who killed the girl, after a long list of suspects including some young lads she was fucking, at twelve, her abusive mother, sex mad father and mild mannered stepfather. As I say, the series is excellent. Good writing, realistic characterisation, nice premise, excellent cinematography, plenty of drama, involvement of all the characters and an extremely intricate plot. Laura Fraser is good as the girl, Reese Dinsdale is excellent as the Buddha and Jason Watkins makes a very compelling hallucination/crazy paedo. Also, a somewhat happy ending. Obviously the kid is still dead, two other damaged children are in prison, the innocent pervert is dead, the innocent pervert's family has lost her only family, Joe's daughter is in intensive care and Joe has lost his family, his job and ultimately his freedom. And his mind, with all the hallucinations. But for the rest, it's happy. Chrissey gets the girl and get married, even though she had to spend half of every episode talking him out of turning himself in and he spent to other half of every episode trying to help the paedo's mother catch him for killing her son. Joe was right to call him a streak of piss, too cowardly to turn down steak and chips from the old woman to go and choose a ring with his wife to be. Because he wants her to like him. Like he always does, he says. Very Melvin Smiley. Lcuy gets the boy too, having seduced a fence turned police informant, which as with all the various plot threads eventually ties back into the dual murder investigation. And the senile old man eventually realises that he didn't murder his wife's long ago lover, and his daughter isn't the spawn of another man's loins. It's just a pity Chrissey, who really wasn't sympathetic at all, didn't get the jail sentence. Reminds me too much of scrappy doo, or Harry Kim. Needed locking up.
Sunday, 11 December 2011
Posted by Stephen Morgan at 05:57