Praise be to the Beeb’s Autumnal Gods of Drama for they have blessed us with Philip Glenister and he is back with trademark brusque manliness aplenty. More âwhere are the keys to the Volvo?â? than âfire up the Quattro!â?, viewers shouldn’t expect another Ashes to Ashes-esque vehicle, but a more serious offering which is promisingly complex yet not confusing.
Owing more than a little to noir, Hidden shmoozes onto the screen with muted tones, tinkling piano keys and even a femme fatale. This time, Glenister plays Harry Venn, a small-time solicitor with some serious baggage. Dead body shaped baggage.
After getting a visit from suspicious lawyer, Gina Hawkes (Thekla Reuten), Venn must delve into the ghosts of his murky past and dredge up an old acquaintance in order to provide an alibi for her client. As a former wide-boy, he’s too streetwise to get involved with anything so obviously âcloak and daggerâ?, but at the mention of his dead brother (and 20 grand) Venn is forced to throw himself back into the dirty criminal underworld.
The whole shadowy tale is set against a backdrop of rioting London and government corruption. Filming wrapped up just three weeks before the actual riots and there is something gloomily familiar about the turmoil besetting the nation. The government is failing, the PM stands accused of corruption, the opposition are circling like vultures, journalists are giving backhanders all over the place…you couldnât make it up.
The camera generally lingers uncomfortably close to the unsavoury character Venn mixed with in his joy-riding glory days. And perhaps the real femme fatale in this hard-boiled drama – London – is shot at her gritty best with neon-lit night scenes feeding the seedy, suffocating nature of both plot lines.
Written and created by Ronan Bennett (Public Enemies with Johnny Depp, The Hamburg Cell) and featuring a stellar cast (David Suchet is due to make an appearance in coming episodes), the smart and restrained script does not indulge any noir-esque inklings to any ridiculous extent.
Meanwhile Glenister plays the unshaven, coke-snorting Venn with utter conviction. The role was apparently devised specifically with him in mind – the Beeb certainly know when they are onto a good thing. He may appear your average solicitor, divorced, one kid but his former thuggish life quickly resurfaces at the hint of a threat.
Cold, hard and efficient. Reuten takes a slightly more clichÃ©d approach to her femme fatale role. âYouâre wearing the wrong colour nail varnishâ?, Venn quips, noticing her black nails. The writers are fully aware of the territory they are in, which makes the ride all the more rewarding for those who are in on the joke.
The opening episode of this conspiracy drama was a smooth and well-paced thrill to watch. But the demons of Vennâs past are all-consuming and his increasingly manic behaviour is surely set to spiral rapidly out of control as the series progresses.