Created and co-written by French cop-turned-filmmaker Olivier Marchal, whose previous credits include 36 Quai Des Orfevres (2004)and MR73 (2008), Braquo – The Complete Series One (Arrow Films) is a visceral cop-show about a squad of elite cops with a reputation for operating outside of the law.
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However, following the suicide of their disgraced colleague Max Rossi (Olivier Rabourdin), who topped himself after his investigation into his jaw-dropping mistreatment of a criminal in a holding cell, four cops, Eddie Caplan (Jean-Hugues Anglade), Walter Morlighem (Joseph Malerba), Theo Wachevski (Nicolas Duvauchelle) and Roxane Delgado (Karole Rocher), embark on an increasingly violent mission to clear his name.
Their decision sees them go toe-to-toe with the very Internal Affairs agents who had been probing Max’s actions, and if they make one false move they could end up in prison alongside the very scumbags that they are used to busting.
The heavily recommended MR73 was described on these pages as ‘bleak, gritty and disturbing’, and Braquo (slang for ‘heist’) is effectively a variation on a theme for Marchal, with the acclaimed filmmaker broadening his storytelling scope to encompass eight episodes (with a second series currently airing on FX). Although comparisons have been made between Braquo and fellow Euro-crime imports The Killing and Wallander, the TV series that it most resembles is hit US cop drama The Shield, which notched up seven brutal series detailing the exploits of Vic Mackey’s LA-based Strike Team.
Grim and sordid throughout, Braquo pulls no punches in its walk on the wild side of French criminality, and cranks up the unease as the protagonists’ personal and professional lives start to unravel. All in all, a disturbingly intense French cop-show that is well worthy of rubbing shoulders with its fellow small-screen imports. Riveting and visceral.
Created by Liverpool-born screenwriter Jimmy McGovern – as the follow-up to his critically-acclaimed cop-show-with-a-twist Cracker – The Lakes – Complete Series 1 & 2 (Second sight) earned rave reviews when it first aired in 1997, giving well-known TV star John Simm (State of Play, Life on Mars) his breakthrough role in the process.
The series follows twenty-something Danny Kavanagh (Simm), who is desperate to escape from an unfulfilling lifestyle characterised by compulsive gambling and petty theft in his native Liverpool. On a whim he heads north to the Lake District, hoping to unleash his poetic impulses, only to quickly fall into a rut typified by heavy drinking, petty criminality and casual drug use. After getting a local girl pregnant, Danny quickly establishes himself as a familiar face within the community, but being part of the fabric of village life brings with it just as much temptation as the big city.
Before long, Danny is distracted by promiscuous rich girl Lucy Archer (Kaye Wragg, No Angels, The Bill), and the pair’s destructive flirtation leads to Danny becoming embroiled in a tragic event involving a trio of local schoolgirls…
Although the first series of The Lakes earned widespread critical plaudits for its grittily realistic portrayal of a young man torn between a desire to better himself and a compulsion to indulge his more nihilistic leanings, the drama feels unfortunately dated, paling in comparison to similar material that has followed in its wake.
In contrast, the longer second series – which alienated late-90s viewers with its abrupt shift in tone – actually holds up far better, and makes for more compelling viewing. Rather than focusing on the tormented Danny’s inner turmoil, the second series instead explores the murky private lives of the rest of the village’s residents, pushing the show’s hitherto well-concealed dark humour to the fore. With adultery, rape and murder all on the agenda, outsider Danny effectively acts as the village’s conscience, and his intimate knowledge of local events puts him squarely at odds with his reluctant in-laws – who are harbouring dark secrets of their own…
With McGovern sharing writing responsibilities in series two with a number of other screenwriters, the tone often becomes muddled, but the narrative remains compelling throughout. Although it occasionally resembles a Happy Shopper version of Twin Peaks, The Lakes still makes for memorable viewing, even if its transgressive impulses have been dulled slightly with age. Fuelled by an appealing of-its-time Britpop-heavy soundtrack, and boosted by a typically charismatic lead performance from Simm, The Lakes is a good show, just not the great show that newcomers may be anticipating.