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Monday, 11 September 2017

Sky Atlantic's Tin Star lacks any real punch.


Tin Star is the latest in Sky’s original productions, a revenge thriller starring Tim Roth and Christina Hendricks. Described as "a tale of corruption of innocence, murder, grief and all consuming revenge  set against the backdrop of a remote and beautiful Canadian mountain town”, Sky have chosen to release all episodes on the same day simultaneously showing the first episode on Sky Atlantic.

The advertising around this show peaked my interest straight away.  It looked like it was going to be a taut and tense drama with some horror vibes thrown in for good measure.

The first episode opened with a terrified family driving along a deserted road. As the low fuel light  flashes up on the dashboard Jim Worth (Roth), who is driving, turns the car around and heads for a gas station. It’s clear something's very wrong and the family seem to be running from someone or something.  Angela (Genevieve O’Reilly), moves round to take their young son for an ill-timed toilet break. It's then  a figure cloaked in black and wearing a white mask reminiscent of the Scream TV series appears in front of the car, shoots through the windscreen towards Jim causing an explosion of blood to cover the face of teenage daughter Anna (Abigail Lawrie).


It’s an explosive and honestly shocking setup that had me on the edge of my seat. Sadly, the action then slows down as we wind back '1 Year Earlier' and the tension that had been built so expertly is immediately lost. It's an irritating troupe of a lot of modern dramas. Series start on their most exciting scenes to draw you in and then head back to see how we got there. The problem is though, it's so overused that it's more of an irritant   It's as if programme makers don't the attention spans of their audience to start the story at the beginning.

Here the family seem to be living an idyllic life in quiet, rural Canada.  Jim is the recently arrived police chief. He's celebrating two years of sobriety whilst Angela tries to ingratiate herself with the locals by baking and the kids are being, well, kids. Whilst his life in beautifully picturesque Little Big Bear appears perfect there's a sense there's something a bit 'off kilter' with the new police chief. Is he running from his life in London? What brought him to the Canada?


Then to the introduction Elizabeth Bradshaw (Hendricks). When we meet her she's buying all of all of Angela's "buggered" homemade fudge. It's clear from their brief exchange that Bradshaw isn't all she appears and that she's more sickly sweet than a whole tub of fudge. When we meet her again she's chairing a town meeting. Bradshaw, it transpires, works as a PR for the much maligned North Stream Oil. She's there to tick boxes and try and butterup residents so that the company can move in and drill for oil. There's talk of migrant workers from all over converging on the tiny tourist town.

In predictable fashion the new police chief and the other newcomer Bradshaw rub each other the wrong way. It's here the story began to lose me. What had started with an interesting and unusual premise had very quickly changed in to a much more mainstream and derivative story we have seen far too many times before. The setting is stunning but the characters who inhabit it never quite feel like real people. Even Jim who we're supposed to be rooting for feels more cartoonish than a modern day police officer. He continually uses the phrase 'I'm British' as if to make himself stand out more. The dialogue is clunky and once you lose faith in the world the show is exploring the whole thing falls apart.


We then edge closer to that memorable opening scene. There's a peculiar moment where young son Pete opens a briefcase which contains a rather overly CGI'd snake. The family wake as Pete screams. "There's a monster" whispers the young boy. It's clear someone is after the family. They bundle into the car and head for Calgary. It's here we revisit that red fuel gauge, the car turning round and the ill fated toilet stop. Only this time we see it more from the prospective of the shooter who is clearly shaken about what he or she is about to do. The cut to the hospital reveals young Pete didn't survive but slightly more interesting is a tiny reveal in the hospital bathroom. Jim takes off his blood covered T shirt and we see a big snake tattoo on his back. Could the bizarre snake in the briefcase be in reference to something in his past? Is this someone who has been tracking the family across the world?

Whilst those last moments were far more engaging that what happened before I felt no urge to continue with episode 2. All ten are now available on Sky Boxsets or NowTV if you feel differently.

 Rowan Joffe#s script was as bit limp and the direction unclear. Tim Roth didn’t convince me he had ever met the other actors before, never mind that he was a member of their family. I wonder whether a different actor with a bit more charisma and more than one expression could have brought a bit more to the episode. Genevieve O’Reilly had virtually nothing to do in this episode apart from a few wry, funny lines. The rest of the cast performed their parts as expected and I just hope there is more for them to do in the next episodes.  I’ve read more of where the story is going and I cannot understand why there were no hints of this in the first episode!  All of the Sky Atlantic originals seem to suffer the same problem: they bring in big names, plonk them in incredible locations which look fantastic but there's no substance in the story. Their last big budget affair Fortitude was a case in point.

I can see the sky's logic in making this all available in one go. If you had to wait the seven days between the episodes you're less likely to come back at least if you want to you can keep going now while it's fresh in the mind.

Contributed by Graeme Thomson-Gold

Tin Star Continues Thursday on Sky Atlantic or watch the entire series now Sky Boxsets and NOWTV

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