2 June 2019 | kmoh-1
Different, classy but strange and highly implausible
A tough, gritty thriller set in the world of the construction business, blessed with two brilliant lead performances from Colin Blakeley and Michael Williams. Mogul Lew Burnett survives an assassination attempt, and stays underground to flush out the killer - who meanwhile has employed hitman Quentin to finish the job. Can Burnett discover the truth before his luck runs out?
Over 8 episodes, oddly given tarot-style names (only some of which are genuine), Burnett and his dapper ally Crowe dodge round the world, finding those who owed him money, or a grudge, or who benefited from his death, swapping sardonic dialogue and leaving behind a large trail of corpses.
Don't get me wrong. It is very good, the scripts and acting are excellent and the production values high. But it is very odd too. Everyone is absurdly tough. No opponent can match the unbeatable Crowe and Quentin, while Burnett has bested everyone in business deals, knife fights, fist fights, battles with unions, governments and competing firms, building dams and pipelines and roads in Venezuela and the Middle East and Africa. Quentin squares up to a whole British Army battalion, while Crowe, together with a gang of about three people, takes on the whole government, army and police force of an East European communist state. Meanwhile, Crowe's unlikely friend Turtle together with the occasional hooligan can break into anywhere, find anything and outwit the police. It is about as realistic as the Iliad.
This is very entertaining, but strains credibility (particularly Quentin, who resembles a psychopathic geography teacher). Perhaps the worst strategic mistake was to make each episode practically standalone. Only two actors, apart from the heroes and villains, appear in more than one episode. This rather undermines the whodunnit aspects of the programme, because suspicion never accumulates, and the viewer has no real idea who the enemies are in each episode, or what they might have to do with each other, if anything. So the series doesn't really cohere, and the only meaningful continuity between episodes occurs in the final two.
Fans of Turtle's Progress will be interested to see the first appearance of Turtle in several episodes of this series, with Gareth Hunt in a couple of episodes in the Razor Eddie role. Turtle is light relief here, but be warned that The Hanged Man is not a comedy at all, and the two series are very different indeed in style and content. James Grout also appears in The Hanged Man, but in a different role from his Turtle's Progress part - as always he adds class.