Are you a copper?” Asks a young boy as Jack Quinn arrives on his estate. “Do I look like a copper?” replies Jack. He’s not exactly forthcoming with an answer but the question is one you’re sure to be asking yourselves during Tony Jordan’s latest six-part series. The truth is the team here aren’t police. There is a real air of ambiguity that floats through the series which is likely to frustrate and intrigue viewers in equal measure. On set in Birmingham (the city doubles nicely for London) the cast were just as cagey as the backgrounds of this clandestine team. Lead of the ensemble Warren Brown told me, “The title says it all, they’re capturing criminals that the police are having trouble catching. The dynamic of the team is great. We all got on immediately and we’ve had an absolute ball shooting this.”
As Warren says By Any Means focuses on a team who are called upon when the police can’t catch a criminal. They’re a little known about group who work in an abandoned and very atmospheric warehouse that even the police seem obvious to. Andrew-Lee Potts who plays the team’s computer hacker Tom Tom admits even the cast were shocked at the lengths the group would go to to get the job done. “There are moments where you’ll go woah I didn’t think they’d go there. We’re not untouchable, we just try to be invisible.” It’s an idea that lends itself It’s an interesting idea that allows for a varied amount of stories and it manages to balance the tone between dark and sinister and fun and jokey.
The team are made up of three key members: Jack Quinn (Warren Brown) described by Warren as someone with “a strong moral compass.” Jessica Jones (Shelly Conn) who Shelly describes as someone who is “very passionate about justice and relishes the demise of the baddies.” Our gang is completed by confident computer hacker Thomas Tomkins (Andrew-Lee Potts) who is possibly one of the best hackers in the country but Andrew says is “very anti-authoritarian.” The threesome bounce off each other well and hold the show together with ease.
The opening episode sees our team tackle nasty piece of work Nick Mason (played by the brilliant Keith Allen). Mason has avoided capture many times and Jack quips “he’s even got his own PR company.” Quinn has been ordered to get Mason off the streets “By Any Means” (see what they did there?) by the menacing Gina Mckee. Mckee plays Helen Barlow, this being By Any Means her actual role is unclear; but we gather from her brief appearance that she is in charge of the cases the team handles. When asked who their employers were each of the cast replied with the same answer, “it’s a grey area.” “Why Don’t we just shoot him?” quips Jessica. “Are we allowed to kill people?” says Tom Tom “No, It’s PC gone mad” replies Jack. It is never made clear just how far they are allowed to go.
As I watch our justice hungry gang break into Mason’s house and hack into his PC It is hard not to compare this to Jordan’s other big BBC1 drama Hustle. Once you have thought it’s a hard one to shake and if I’m 100% honest By Any Means isn’t as unique in its style or presentation as it appears at the start. On the plus side it exhibits a lot of the hallmarks of the best Hustle episodes. I enjoyed seeing the characters play other people and fool those around them. Shelly Conn told me that acting within acting was an interesting challenge. “On our first day together it was layer upon layer and we felt like we were hitting the ground running. We were our characters for the first time, but our characters were playing characters who were on a Skype call with Andrew who was playing a different character, it was really crazy but that’s the fun of it.”
In similar vein to Hustle there’s a well-paced ending to the opening episode which cleverly tricks the audience and then shows us how the team pulled off the surprise. Whilst it lacks originality I found it an enjoyable hour. To enjoy this to the full you don’t want to think too hard, if you take that route you’ll be picking holes left right and centre. If you’re hoping for gritty and hard hitting you might find yourself a little disappointed but if you want a bit of fun with fronted by likeable and talented cast this should be right up your alley.
By Any Means Starts Sunday 22nd September on at 9.00pm on BBC ONE