There has been a Game Of Thrones shaped hole in our lives for a while now. We still can’t get over the somewhat tepid ending to what, until that point, had been a quite staggering bit of television.
As we wandered listlessly from Netflix to Amazon Prime via Disney+ and Hulu to try and fill that void, many pretenders tried, all were judged unworthy. None were really up to the job. Well it’s a big, bold claim we are about to make here at the Outpost. We think we might have found our new top show. Gangs Of London.
How is this UK based gangster show going to possibly fill that Thrones void in our TV viewing hearts? Through glorious, bloody, brutal violence!
Imagine if Game Of Thrones was sexually assaulted by The Sopranos and had a child that was then given up for adoption by the Peaky Blinders and then taught to fight by The Raid.
No Guy Ritchie cheeky wide boys with quippy dialogue here. Just a load of really nasty bastards doing really nasty bastard stuff to each other. Three episodes in and there has been people set on fire and dropped from skyscrapers, legs broken on the corner of a pub bar, darts employed in a punch-up and a gypsy traveller camp turned into a slaughterhouse. That reminds us, there was also something unpleasant involving an actual slaughterhouse. And a gay orgy. Hey, it’s a broad church!
It’s so cinematic you forget it’s just on TV as the tale of gang politics, brutal violence and family tension unfolds. It begins when London’s biggest gangster (Colm Meaney) is assassinated. He basically sat at the head of all the London crime families and was the glue that held the London underworld together. As his expensively educated son Sean Wallace (Peaky Blinders Joe Cole) burns with rage at the death of his beloved father and orders the city shut down, the impact on other illicit businesses causes pressure that is threatening to explode.
Somebody is trying to change the order of things in the world of London’s organised crime and we follow the story as an orgy of violence is unleashed while the Wallace family rips the city apart to find out who killed the head of their family. It’s like a whodunnit with off the charts brutality. Meanwhile a series of flashbacks shows Sean’s life growing up as the son of London’s most notorious criminal, as the other families begin to jockey for position in whatever the new order may bring.
The cast includes Sope Dirisu as Elliot Finch, a mysterious and skilled fighter who is ex-military, and Game of Thrones’ Michelle Fairley, as the assassinated mob boss’s wife.
So you can see where The Sopranos, Game Of Thrones and Peaky Blinders influences may come from, but what about The Raid?
The man behind it is none other than Gareth Evans, the director behind Indonesia’s finest action movies like The Raid, The Raid 2 and Merantau.
The martial arts sensibilities from those movies flows into this through finely choreographed fight scenes to put a level of violence on the screen that we haven’t seen since Game Of Thrones went brutal, or when The Walking Dead was new and exciting.
So how did Indonesian style fight choreography end up in a gritty London based crime drama? Evans gave some details when on the promotional tour for the show:
”Both myself and Jude Poyer, the stunt coordinator, have the same interest in East Asian action cinema, so all of our influences come from there. We both watched the same Jackie Chan films and Sammo Hung films, and could wax endlessly about the nerdy aspects of Hong Kong cinema.
As a result, we just can’t help it: There’s a flavour to those fights which permeates into our work. What we’ve always wanted to do is to take something that felt quintessentially British, but put a spin on it. When we were designing the pub fight in the first episode, we knew we wanted it to be relentless and full on, but for it to have a rollercoaster vibe.
There’s that mix of the rough and tumble of a barroom brawl, with moments where it feels messy and chaotic, but then these little pockets of choreography where suddenly Sope Dirisu is moving with grace and balleticism.”
However it’s not chop-socky martial arts on display. It’s proper brawling. As with all proper brawls in entertainment a lot of improvisation is done with weaponary. Evans continued:
“It all starts with a concept of what the scene is. I’ll say to Jude and his team, ‘The setup is a fight going on in the pub, and our guy needs to get to the guy who’s at the end of the bar, by working his way through all of his goons.’
That’s literally it. And then I’ll say – and I’m a nice person, honestly – that I really want to use one of those thick glass ashtrays, and, ‘Oh! there’s a dartboard, so I really want to use darts!’
For the darts in that fight, I remember saying to Jude, let’s make it like in Robocop, where he has that spike in his glove – if you put the dart in between the fingers, that becomes a weapon. Then I’ll be like, for the rest of it, go and play! Then they’ll go and figure it out.”
See? How can you resist? Outside the fight scenes the drama is so far on-point and the slowly unravelling plot set among a reordering of a major city’s underworld crime infrastructure from the top down is gripping.
Who is behind it? We are currently on a binge watch to find out and so far this is one of those shows that keeps you up late. You tell yourself you’ll just get another episode in before bed, and then can’t stop.