Friday, 26 September 2014

THE DRIVER Review: Episode 1, 22 September


The actor's actor David Morrissey is on top form in BBC1's new thriller.

Seen most recently in AMC's terrific The Walking Dead, David Morrissey is one of those actors who's so good it doesn't look like he's acting. The same applies to Ian Hart (Backbeat, Marvel's Agents of SHIELD) and Colm Meaney (Star Trek: The Next Generation and Layer Cake). To see all three of them in a drama together is a rare treat. It's a shame they couldn't get Paddy Considine to be in this one as well.

BBC1's The Driver starts off very Breaking Bad, although Vince McKee (Morrissey) isn't as single-minded as Walter White. Vince is a decent, Northern man at the end of his tether, struggling with domestic boredom and a badly paid job as an under-appreciated taxi driver. When his old school mate Col (Hart) is released from a six-stretch in prison, Vince has the chance of making some real money as the driver for local 'businessman' 'The Horse' (Meaney). It isn't long before things start going wrong.

The Driver is full of well observed stuff men of a certain age can sympathise with:
Vince struggles through the daily grind on the verge of depression, he's estranged from his son Tim (Lewis Rainer), has to cope with his materialistc daughter Katie (Sacha Parkinson) and gives in to bickering with his wife Rosalind (Claudie Blakely) when, really, he still loves her. In one particularly graphic sequence, two chavvy girls get a lift in Vince's cab beacuse it's raining. With no money, one of them urinates on the floor then, as he tries to throw them out, they steal his fare money and let his tyres down. It might seem over the top, but, unfortunately, feral scum like this are out there and are always ready to piss on civilised values.

Like all the best thrillers, The Driver makes the most of deadpan humour to lighten the mood and relieve the tension. The Horse claims to study philosophy and quotes impressively, but Vince discovers a book of quotations in his loo. 'Philisophy my arse,' he mutters. Later, waiting for The Horse and Darren (the always good Andrew Tiernan) as they conduct business, hired hand Woodsy (Christopher Coghill, brilliant as Happy Mondays' Bez in 24 Hour Party People) grumbles about losing his girlfriend to Hartlepool 'down south'. Morrissey's range of expressions are pricless as he tactfully points out that Hartlepool is, apparently, on 'the north east coast'.

All of this would already make The Driver a winner, but it kicks off with one of the best car chases I've ever seen in a British crime series - as I know all of The Sweeney really well, we are talking very impressive. It's so well edited that you come away thinking that Morrissey did all of the driving himself, although the six or so stunt drivers listed in the credits make it clear that he didn't.

If you haven't already, give The Driver a go: it's great to see British television drama finally picking up the gauntlet thrown down by US series like Breaking Bad and Ray Donovan. Next week, the great Shaun Dingwall turns up as a copper on Vince's case.

Next up - Peaky Blinders.

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