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New Release Review - Harrigan (DVD)

Gritty seventies set cop drama.

Directed by: Vince Woods
Starring: Stephen Tompkinson, Ian Whyte, Amy Manson, Gillian Kearney, Craig Conway, Maurice Roeves


Vince Woods' serviceable seventies set policer is an entertaining slice of retro grit that is more likely to find an audience on DVD. With its grimy shades of brown and Newcastle setting it may seek to emulate the peerless Get Carter whilst nodding to the smaller scale pleasures of retro pastiche shows like Life on Mars and period works like The Sweeney.
Barry Harrigan (Tompkinson) is an old school, 12 guv a day copper, back from secondment in Hong Kong after shooting a Triad leader, returning to his old patch during the miners' strike and the crippling effects of the three day week. He's six months from retirement and butting heads with his superior, Larson (Mark Stobbart). Add to the mix a female officer getting grief from her compadres and a sage old ex copper who offers advice and support to Harrigan like a gruff northern Mr Miyagi, and you become aware that writer Arthur McKenzie is leaving no stone unturned in his quest for cliche. The strange thing is that despite it being hugely derivative, it still works.
With an impressive array of performances from the cast of TV stalwarts Woods has assembled, Tompkinson in particular impresses as the titular character, hard edged and taciturn without stumbling into the area marked pastiche. McKenzie was a policeman in Tyneside so there is feeling of lived in reality to the environment that has the whiff of authenticity about it.
If at first it seems to be aiming for that sleazy tabloid baiting mix of hoodie violence, prostitution and drugs seen over by a Cockney Wanker end of level boss that made Harry Brown so distasteful, it soon becomes clear that this is a Western in Police clothing, drawing on works as diverse as High Noon, Rio Bravo and that other modern day oater, Assault on Precinct 13.
Well shot and surprisingly sharp, it is also a fine example of fluid economy. Running a fast and efficient hour and a half, this is a plot driven, get in and get out piece of entertainment. Back story is used only to drive the plot forward and the film never outstays its welcome. Although not without flaws (the triad subplot is underdeveloped, never going anywhere other than to hint at Harrigan being a Ronin on the streets of Newcastle) it is definitely worth a watch.
Home viewing may be Harrigan’s natural home. If it feels like a pilot for a six part ITV Sunday night series, it is at least a good pilot. You wouldn’t mind seeing some more cases involving Tompkinson’s detective, you just probably wouldn’t go to the cinema to watch them. Good solid police work nonetheless.
6/10


Jason Abbey

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