Pity the daughter. Even she underestimated her father.
Hatton Garden begins with a scene in a terraced house with an uninspiring fruitbowl on the table and a news story about Ed Miliband on the radio. The lighting is grey and a woman is nagging her dad about how he shouldn’t be going out drinking, especially not with his friend who makes him stressed out.
She could never have guessed the real reason for Terry Perkins’s high blood pressure — he was about to pull off one of the largest robberies in British history.
The Hatton Garden heist of Easter 2015 has already inspired three films and a bounty of conspiracy theories. Surely it’s only a matter of time before Hatton Garden: The Musical, Diamonds Are Forever.
When £14 million of jewellery and cash was taken from the safe deposit company, names of international criminal networks were thrown around — could it have been the work of the Balkans-based Pink Panther gang, or a real life Ocean’s Eleven?
The truth was better — this was a group of old guys. The French press called them the grandads’ gang, while we went for Dad’s Army or The Diamond Wheezers. When the case came to trial some of them had to strain to hear the judge, but the lesson was clear – don’t write off the older generation. They may not have been able to run or hack computers but (spoiler alert) these eight men pulled off a spectacular feat.
The audaciousness of the crime means it’s a natural fit for drama but legal issues have held up this show. It was pulled twice because of ongoing investigations. This is third time lucky for the drama by Bafta award-winner Jeff Pope, Paul Whittington and Terry Winsor. ITV is showing all four parts this week, concluding on Thursday — trying to get it in before any other details emerge.
At first, the robbers appear as a harmless band of old codgers with dodgy knees, reuniting one last time to work on a bank holiday. The first episode is a slow build scene-setter, heavy on logistics. There’s a lot of sawing into walls in the dark and arguing about who sits in the front seat and who needs a wee — Ocean’s Eleven glamour this is not. The look is gritty — dirty vans and grey skies — but the soundtrack adds pace.
Then you remember that they are criminals and this crime had victims, who lost everything. It’s a credit to Pope’s writing and the actors that they manage to make the criminals likeable and human without glamorising what they did. It’s a fine line, and the problem of making the baddies too endearing is augmented by the fact that Timothy Spall plays Perkins. Spall is easy to sympathise with, even as Perkins, a career criminal who died in prison this year and had diabetes — he collapsed from lack of insulin during the heist. Kenneth Cranham as ringleader Brian Reader is a perfect foil to Perkins and the way they wind each other up is believeable.
There are parallels with Spall’s role in Auf Wiedersehen, Pet. In that, the blokes bickered in a van while searching for jobs in West Germany, while this time they bicker about whether their phones can be traced by police. It’s not as shambolic as Four Lions but there is as much bumbling. You have to concentrate or it’s easy to get lost, but it’s a promising start.
Back to Life ends tonight. It’s ace comedy, weaving relatable jokes about family, jobs and relationships into a plot about a woman sent to prison for murdering her best friend 18 years ago. Fingers crossed for a second series. And I hope the probation officer never learns how to pronounce “noodles”, as hearing her get it wrong is hilarious. Newdles.
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