The everyday story of Central London drug-smuggling folk continues apace, drawing in every creed, race and colour with its tentacles. This week’s fall guys are (tick another ethnic minority box) a corner shop-owning South Asian family of spotless repute who fall into the clutches of the central criminal conspiracy being tracked by the Unit – a team of supercops who converse entirely in pre-digested exposition.
Reid, a middle-management fixer representing the more palatable face of the drug-smuggling business ruled by arch-villain Roach (Trevor Eve), is in charge of laundering the cash amassed by the, er, dry cleaning shops front run by Roach’s man at the sharper end, Xav (Lee Boardman).
Neil Stuke plays the Mini-Me baddie Reid – aka The Accountant (what kind of a villain’s moniker is that? It is hardly ‘Mad Frankie’ Fraser, is it?) Accountants were once the butt of Monty Python sketches as the last word in boring. Now, of course, post-financial crash, accountants and moneymen in general have become stock scumbags of TV crime. Although Stuke, best known for 1990s sitcom Game On, looks about as much of a hard case as my gran.
However, a mere functionary who has transgressed the hoodlums’ code by mislaying a hundred grand of the operation’s cash, needs drowning in the toilet to show him the error of his ways, and Reid – a curly-haired grownup school bully – is overseeing it. So gratuitous is his overacting that even Roach’s henchman Docker (Gary Beadle) looks horrified.
The cash, supposed to be on its way to Spain to smooth someone’s way in the Costa del Crime, has been passed by another of Roach’s gang to a young Asian lad Zubin Tahir (Hamza Jeetooa) to be laundered overseas by his family’s Hawala connection. Zubin sees himself as a bit of a ‘playa’ – he also seems to think he’s in a Le Carré novel, making up passwords for the handover.
Aha, say ‘Ash’ Ashton (O-T Fagbenle) and the eavesdroppers at Unit, who realise that the passwords indicate Hawala – a (mostly legal) honour-based system of money-broking in South Asian communities.
But before the money can be handed to Reid, it is stolen in an entirely coincidental raid on the shop by a couple of Mancunian chancers.
From then on the future looks bleak for the nice old shopkeeper Tahir (Renu Setna) and his straitlaced son Astin (Sacha Dharwhan), who until now has had a nice career at a building society. Reid wants his money back – with 25 per cent interest from the building society’s vault.
Again, Ash clashes with Cartwright (Ewan Stewart) when instead of allowing fate to take its course, he wades in to lift soft lad Astin out of trouble at the hands of his thick but violent double-crossing ex-school nemesis when their deal to rob Astin’s branch goes south.
Ash, though, makes sure the transaction goes ahead – counting on the certainty that Reid, whom Roach suspects of skimming, is daft enough to collect the cash himself.
But Ash’s action has once again frustrated Unit’s route to apprehending Roach. Astin and his family may now be safe, but Reid finds himself wrong-end-down in the toilet, courtesy of Roach’s network. We think that’s known as being ‘hoist by your own petard’.
And nice lady cop Gemmell (Jeany Spark) is again on hand to help Ash out with rounding up the scallies who raided the Tahirs’ shop. Oh, please don’t let’s fall into the trap of cops having an ill-advised affair. That really would be a cliché too far.
Again, Eve still hasn’t cast a big enough shadow over proceedings as Roach, although he does get the duffest line of the episode. “Maybe I’m getting soft. When was the last time we actually hurt someone?” he asks Docker.
We hope that Boardman comes more to the fore during the series (we still fondly remember his tribute to The Shining-era Jack Nicholson when, as drug dealer Jez Quigley, he beat Steve MacDonald almost to death in Coronation Street). He’s effective as the bad guy on the verge of a nervous breakdown.
Tony Saint’s script’s continuing lack of finesse is truly stupendous – it’s full of dialogue that even the The Professionals would have regarded as de trop.
For undercover officers, Ash’s teammates are mind-bogglingly conspicuous as they loll about in cars on street corners, gabbing away into their radio mics. If that were not enough, the high-stakes action scenes manage to dribble away any biting suspense, which is quite a feat really.
For our episode one review, go here
For our episode two review, go here