TIN STAR

SKY AT­LANTIC OUT 4 SEPTEM­BER episodes viewed ALL

Empire (UK) - - ON.SCREEN - JIMI FAMUREWA

CRE­ATOR Rowan Joffe CAST Tim Roth, Christina Hen­dricks, Genevieve O’reilly, Abi­gail Lawrie, Christo­pher Hey­er­dahl, Kevin Han­chard, Oliver Coop­er­smith

Strug­gling with al­co­holism and haunted by a mys­te­ri­ous past, for­mer Lon­don cop Jim Worth (Roth) has moved his fam­ily to a quiet town in the Cana­dian Rock­ies. Then, per­sonal tragedy strikes, forc­ing him to tan­gle with crim­i­nals and shady oil ex­ecs in a dan­ger­ous, bloody quest for ret­ri­bu­tion.

A SELF-DE­STRUC­TIVE anti-hero grap­pling with per­sonal demons, a con­flicted wife forced into mur­der­ous com­plic­ity with her hus­band, hor­ri­fy­ing crim­i­nal deeds in a pic­turesque ru­ral set­ting, hard-drink­ing cops will­ing to bend the rules to see jus­tice done; not even the most char­i­ta­ble ob­server would de­scribe

Tin Star’s pri­mary com­po­nents as par­tic­u­larly box-fresh or un­der-ex­plored. In fact, set against some of the crit­i­cisms lev­elled at Netflix’s re­cent

Break­ing Bad-ish thriller Ozark, this ten-parter looks like an easy tar­get for more jus­ti­fied grous­ing about pres­tige TV’S un­shake­able ob­ses­sion with the cliché of the “dif­fi­cult man”.

And yet, helped by a be­guil­ingly un­usual and morally com­plex cen­tral per­for­mance from Tim Roth, Sky At­lantic’s lat­est block­buster orig­i­nal just about hangs to­gether, achiev­ing some in­ter­est­ing new things with its fa­mil­iar tropes and build­ing to a con­clu­sion that — al­though it strains credulity at times — never lacks for thrills or sur­prises. Cre­ated by writer-di­rec­tor Rowan Joffe (scriptwriter on

The Amer­i­can and di­rec­tor of 2010’s Brighton Rock), it’s of a piece with his past ex­plo­rations of mas­culin­ity, mur­der and its con­se­quences.

Gruff cock­ney Jim Worth (Roth) is the rel­a­tively new po­lice chief in Lit­tle Big Bear, a post­card-pretty town in the Cana­dian Rock­ies where a tourist twist­ing an an­kle is about as rough as it gets crime-wise. A re­cov­er­ing al­co­holic, Worth has brought his wife (the steely Genevieve O’reilly) and kids to a new coun­try in a bid to stay sober and also flee mys­te­ri­ous tur­moil back in Lon­don. In­evitably, Worth’s past soon catches up with him. Just as he faces off against the shady PR chief of an oil com­pany look­ing to es­tab­lish a re­fin­ery in the town (Christina Hen­dricks), un­known ri­vals en­act a heinously vi­o­lent at­tack on his fam­ily.

There’s some stylis­tic wob­bli­ness to these early scenes — one mo­ment the show packs

pulpy Fargo-like weird­ness or dreamy flour­ishes wor­thy of Twin Peaks, the next it’s an un­blink­ing, nat­u­ral­is­tic ex­am­i­na­tion of grief — but, es­sen­tially, an in­tri­cate mystery un­furls from the Worth fam­ily’s re­sponse to this tragedy. Jim, of course, strug­gles to stay away from the bot­tle as he seeks to find the at­tack­ers; An­gela, O’reilly’s char­ac­ter, has to re­cover psy­cho­log­i­cally and phys­i­cally; their home­sick teenage daugh­ter Anna (Abi­gail Lawrie) slowly wakes to the fact her par­ents have all man­ner of half-buried se­crets.

What’s more, as the lay­ers of what we think we’re in for — a fairly con­ven­tional tale of a re­formed small-town cop spurred into ac­tion — are peeled away, in­trigu­ing ques­tions emerge. Who is this fear­some Jack Devlin char­ac­ter who keeps be­ing men­tioned in ref­er­ence to Worth? Why is Whitey, Oliver Coop­er­smith’s sadis­tic Bri­tish pretty boy, lurk­ing on the fringes? How does North Shore Oil se­cu­rity boss/shaven-headed Bond vil­lain Louis Gagnon (Christo­pher Hey­er­dahl) fit into it all? And what’s the sig­nif­i­cance of the snake tat­too on Worth’s back that keeps com­ing in for fore­bod­ing, lin­ger­ing close-ups?

By and large, Tin Star’s tricksy episodes make a de­cent fist of an­swer­ing these ques­tions, while also swirling in a hot-but­ton sub­plot ex­am­in­ing how the oil re­fin­ery brings brawl­ing biker gangs, strip joints and malev­o­lent cor­po­rate forces to a once-tran­quil town. To be clear, there are patchy stretches. The scripts — seven of which are writ­ten by Joffe — aim for an earthy po­etry that doesn’t al­ways come off (“When some­one dies, some­one you love, you sort of breathe death in, like germs,” says Lawrie’s char­ac­ter at some point, un­con­vinc­ingly). And there’s also a wider ques­tion, es­pe­cially given Joffe’s big-screen back­ground, of whether Tin Star may have made for a tighter six-parter or even a film: stylis­tic ex­per­i­ments are re­peated (there are at least three mys­te­ri­ous cold opens that flash back to fill in the blanks) and as the vi­o­lence builds, the sight of one char­ac­ter point­ing a gun at another pretty much loses all im­pact.

But just as you think you have it pegged there’s nor­mally a riv­et­ing sur­prise or tar­black joke to suck you back in. And a lot of this em­anates from Roth. The for­mer Mr Orange’s per­for­mance as Worth — a crum­pled, sar­donic anti-hero and blood­ied wreck­ing ball who never seems fazed in even the dark­est cir­cum­stances — takes a while to ad­just to. But, just like the show he’s at the cen­tre of, this trou­bled mod­ern-day gun­slinger is a fas­ci­nat­ing, thor­oughly watch­able enigma. VERDICT Play­ing like Cro­nen­berg’s A His­tory Of Vi­o­lence scripted by Guy Ritchie, Sky At­lantic’s lat­est se­ries is an im­per­fect but thrilling re­venge saga el­e­vated by Tim Roth’s strange, un­stop­pable cen­tral turn.

Clock­wise from left:

Jim Worth (Tim Roth) hits the bar with Con­sta­ble Denise (Sarah Podem­ski); Worth’s daugh­ter Anna (Abi­gail Lawrie) gets de­fen­sive; Even in the grand ex­panse of new home Lit­tle Big Bear, Roth’s po­lice chief hasn’t es­caped his own demons.

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