By Adam Ray Palmer
A couple of weeks ago, I brought you a review of one of the best sporting documentary series I had ever seen in The Last Dance. Today, I bring you a review of yet another five-star TV series.
From the minds of Matt Flannery and Gareth Evans (the genius behind The Raid films), Gangs of London is a 9-episode flagship show for Sky Atlantic.
Set in the heart of London, Gangs of London tells the story of the city being torn apart by the turbulent power struggles of the international gangs that control it and the sudden power vacuum that's created when the head of London's most powerful crime family is assassinated. The assassination of Finn Wallace (Colm Meaney) sparks territory wars around London, but also within the Wallace family. Joe Cole plays the son, Finn, who must get back control of the city and his household.
This series has literally everything. The acting on show for starters is top drawer when it comes to original dramas. Sometimes, in a large-scale production, some roles are not as strong as others; but with Gangs of London – everyone is on point. Sope Dirisu deserves a lot of recognition for his portrayal of Elliot Finch, an enforcer for the Wallaces. Elliot is undercover for the police, but as the series progresses, he ends up under the covers with the Wallaces aide Shannon Dumani (Pippa Bennett-Warner). His character arc is fascinating as each episode deals him another hand to hit or stick with. He constantly faces off with the other two brilliant performances in the show, the Wallace brothers (Joe Cole and Brian Vernal). Joe and Brian could not be more diverse in terms of character (one is an addict, the other a leader) but both performances share one thing in common, they are delightful to watch.
Whilst talking about delightful things to watch, where this series really dominates is in the directing and writing departments, but I’ll get onto the latter specifically next. The nine episodes are divided up for three directors: Gareth Evans (2 episodes), Corin Hardy (4 episodes) and Xavier Gens (3 episodes). Each shot caller has a clear brief from the screenwriters… go balls-to-the-wall every time! The fast-paced editing and high-octane camera panning is literally addictive. It’s so immersive to watch that you feel just as tired as the characters on screen when the violence goes down. The aggressive nature to the script certainly rubs off onto the directing and my word does it work.
Episode five of the series perfectly encapsulates everything that is superb with the series. The hour-long mini movie is shot in one location, packed with tense moments and stunts galore that have so much gravitas, Tom Cruise would be proud of them. It’s a brave decision, halfway through a progressing narrative, to stop the story and show off just how talented the writers and directors are. I cannot stress enough how brutal and violent this episode is. But on the same spin, I could shout louder at how sensational and entertaining it is too.
There has been a lot of talk at length on how Gangs of London is potentially too violent for some people, and maybe that is true. However, it’s a gritty, criminal underworld that has sensationalised scenes to compel an audience. If you watch the first episode right after this review if you haven’t already, the one-take bar sequence alone will have you hooked until the very end of the show. With its many fans adoration and being critically acclaimed too, the gang will officially return in 2022, and I cannot wait to binge it again.
Cineroom’s rating: 5 stars
Gangs of London is out now on Sky Demand and Now TV. It will also return for a second series in 2022.