I realise I haven’t reviewed any film or TV since We Are Northern Lights at the Dunoon Film Festival, and this is mainly because one of my day jobs at the moment consists primarily of watching telly (it’s a hard life), and I just can’t bring myself to do that when I get home.
But I made an exception for the return of Field of Blood, which first appeared on our screens back in 2011. There’s lots of fantastic TV drama out there at the moment (I highly recommend Ray Donovan if you get the chance), but while Field of Blood may not be up there with the very, very best, it still has enough to recommend it, especially to a Scottish audience who remember the early ’80s. Any programme which starts under the neon sign of the Barras, with Lloyd Cole and the Commotions’ Are You Ready To Be Heartbroken as the soundtrack, has me at hello.
Based on the Denise Mina novel The Dead Hour, and adapted and directed by David Kane whose CV includes Jute City, Ruffian Hearts, This Year’s Love, Born Romantic and Sea of Souls, it is a gripping story of political intrigue, murder, and even gender politics set against the background of the Thatcher Government, the Miner’s Strike and the rise of Rupert Murdoch and News International. The attention to detail is spot on, with the depictions of smoky offices and pubs enough to bring a tear to the eye of all old smokers.
While the script is tight, and there is enough drama to keep you watching, it is the acting which stays with you, as this is a superb cast giving it their all. The big hitters this time round are the returning David Morrisey, rarely better, and Katherine Kelly, who you may know from Corrie as Becky Granger/MacDonald, or more recently as Lee Everett-Alkin, Kenny Everett’s long suffering wife. She is a terrific screen presence and manages to make the role of new editor Maloney, who could have been an obvious Tory stereotype, believable.
The rest of the cast are equally as good. Jayd Johnson holds her own as Paddy Meehan, the young reporter who is the hero of the piece, and Ford Kiernan reminds us that he can be a very good actor indeed when given the right material, which I would suggest he hasn’t had since Still Game ended. Others include Brian Pettifer, Matt Costello, Ron Donachie, Michael Nardone, Brian Ferguson and a terrifying Bronagh Gallagher as Jayd’s religious mother, Trisha. But David Hayman, as ‘Red’ Willie McDade, the leader of the NUM is perhaps the standout cameo, utterly believable as someone who mixes his paranoia with the certainty that he is on the side of right. He also gets the best line; when asked what he would like in his Bells he replies, “another wee Bells”.
Here’s the trailer for the series:
…and you can watch both episodes on iPlayer for the next few days. I recommend it.
I have been told by friends who work in film and TV in Scotland that if it wasn’t for River City and Waterloo Road there would be next to no work about at the moment. This is a sad state of affairs, and Field of Blood shows that you can harness the best of Scottish talent in writing, acting and directing and produce some quality drama. There’s a lot of great raw material out there, with many Scottish novels just gagging to be adapted. But, until that long promised screen version of Doug Johnstone’s Hit & Run turns up, it seems Field of Blood will have to tide us over.
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