Star turn from Tim Roth
Three’s new drama packs in the plot, a terrific lead performance, gorgeous scenery and a lot of bullets right from the word go, writes Steve Kilgallon.
Tim Roth has his accent back. Since Roth, now 56, abandoned Britain for Los Angeles in the late 1980s – in part because he was sickened by the world of Margaret Thatcher – he has mostly had to fit in with the locals.
But in what’s a vague parallel to his own life, old Mr Orange from Reservoir Dogs finally gets to speak in his own London drawl again in Three’s new drama Tin Star (Mondays, 8.30pm) in which Roth plays transplanted British cop Jim Worth, chasing a quieter life as the sheriff of a remote Canadian outpost called Little Big Bear.
It’s clear from the off that he’s enjoying having his own voice back because this is Roth in terrific form – he’s funny, foul-mouthed, slouching his way across screen, alternately cranky and amused. His relationship to his teenage daughter (Abigail Lawrie) is well observed and rings very true.
Clearly, Roth is absolutely integral to Tin Star’s success or otherwise, but it doesn’t feel like a spoiler to say that the first scene appears to show him being shot in the head by a masked gunman, given all this occurs even before the opening credits roll.
Then we’re thrown back in a time a year, to Roth deciding to uproot his family from Britain and move to the Canadian backwoods for a slower pace and to escape an otherwise unspecified range of problems which definitely, we will learn, includes alcoholism.
So first up we get those big, wide cinematic shots of ice-capped peaks and pine forests that look like they come direct from an Alberta Tourism Board advertisement and may make you want
to look up Canadian immigration rules. Life is so suitably dull that Jim contemplates taking up fishing.
But within 10 minutes, there’s a whole lot of plot gone sailing by, and Jim finds himself at odds with a lot of the locals and a ruthless sand-mining multi-national who wants to roll into town. Then we get the suspicious death of one of Jim’s few allies, and we discover someone is out to get the new sheriff and his family. As Anchorman’s Ron Burgundy was wont to say, that escalated quickly.
There’s a sense of a definite desire to get all the set up done super quick, the plot laid out and eyeballs captured in those first 48 minutes of airtime.
With nine episodes left of the season (it has already been renewed for a second), it will be interesting to see which direction writer Rowan Joffe, who wrote the movie 28 Days Later, takes things.
There’s some dramatic music, sweeping camera work and intense looks that suggest a dark, brooding drama is on the cards. But at the same time, the speed of the action and the number of bullets fired already suggests it could equally lurch off into a blood-fuelled old-style Western.
There’s more than enough there, anyway, to drag viewers back in for a second round.
And a hat tip to Three – which usually gets a thoroughly good and often deserved kicking in this parish for its slavish devotion to reality television – for spotting, buying and quickly iring what is shaping up to be a very decent drama right in the middle of a primetime slot.
Over the years, I have made some terrifically bad choices, committed some appalling errors of judgement, and occasionally found myself in a terrible pickle. These are, to be frank, the most interesting things about me. If I’m ever fun at a dinner party, it’s down to those wild mistakes.
We don’t acknowledge our screw-ups enough, I reckon. We’re all so busy presenting ourselves to the neighbours, our kids, the boss, and our Facebook friends as Our Best Selves consistently Winning At Life we forget that our blunders inform who we are just as much as our moments of glory.
You don’t have to make it a status update, but it might be a great idea this weekend to sit down and make a private list of all the times you’ve broken a law – but got away with it. Driving too fast, or after three wines; that joint you inhaled; the lie you told on that form; those youthful indiscretions.
And then make another list of the laws you might be willing to break if you were ever desperate enough and really, really needed to.
Then after you’ve made your list, remind yourself that some people live with that kind of desperation every day. It’s easy to think of criminals as “other”; harder to appreciate they’re like us on a different kind of day.
An election campaign must be its own kind of “desperate time” for the major players. Some nightmarish combination of job interview, performance review and popularity contest. So various politicians will misspeak or overstate or go wildly off script between now and September 23. The suggestion last weekend that criminals “have fewer human rights than others” can, most kindly, be put down to that. Because the thing about human rights is that all you need to qualify for them is “be human”.
Making someone feel less worthy only makes it harder for them to reach out for help, less likely to live by the rules. Think about the things that hold you back from a wild life of crime – your personal sense of right and wrong, sure, but also your commitment to living appropriately within society. And consider what would happen if the society you lived in told you that you were worth less than someone else. Sod ’em, right?
It’s not just me framing it this way – namby-pamby bleeding-heart liberal snowflake over here, hello! – it is recovering addicts and reformed criminals who have found their way out the other side. Clinics, community support groups and rehab centres are so often run by people who once made all of the mistakes, and whose work is now informed by that. People like us, only with possibly more colourful stories of disaster and redemption. from governments that would erode our individual rights. Sometimes the two cross paths, so we have a choice. We either trust the system that ensures wrongdoing is punished, while balancing that against the rights of those accused or even convicted of doing the wrong, or roll back the clock, and start down the slippery slope of re-excluding certain members of our society. The first option is not only fairer, it’s a lot safer, too.
When it comes to privacy, to those who hold the opinion “if you’ve got nothing to hide, you needn’t worry about it”, I say this: everyone has something to hide. It might be something you’ve done. It might be something you’ve said about someone else that you wouldn’t ever want them to find out. It might be a particularly hideous shirt that you wear around the house but throw into the laundry every time there’s a knock at the door. We all make mistakes.
One mistake we cannot make is thinking that by eroding the rights of those we disagree with, we are somehow strengthening our own. If they’ve done something wrong, we have ways and means of addressing that legally. It may take longer than we would like, and it may not work out perfectly 100 per cent of the time, but that’s a price I’m willing to pay.