Life of Crime (ITV) – Review

life of crime

life of crimeIt’s a bit of a pity that I will forever remember this excellent three-part cop drama for just one thing – a truly appalling 1980’s style wig, worn like a precariously-balanced hat by actor Richard Coyle.

Television make-up has come a long way since “I Clavdivs”, but in this particular instance we seem to have experienced something of a throwback.

Putting his headwear aside for just a moment, Coyle plays the long-suffering husband of policewoman Denise Wood, as she clambers her way up the career ladder by routinely planting evidence on suspects and gamely putting up with endemic sexism and kamikaze chain smoking in the Metropolitan Police.

Director is Jim Loach, son of the legendary Ken Loach. The period look is dank, distressed and gloomy. Hard to believe, isn’t it, that we once worked in fluorescent-lit offices without a computer on every desk. What the hell did we do all day without Facebook?

If you like your coppers with finely sculpted cheekbones, you’ll love Denise – ably played by Hayley Atwell, an always believable, never too flashy actor. You know you’re watching a good performer when you can actually hear what they’re thinking as well as what they’re saying.

In Life of Crime, Denise goes from green-behind-the-ears WPC to detective inspector. Luckily, we always know what decade we’re in because all the major plot points conveniently coincide with memorable historic events eg. “I’ll be there in a moment, Sarge, right after I’ve watched this news bulletin about the tragic and untimely death of Princess Diana.”

The series spans three decades of life in the police force, starting in 1985 and finishing in the swinging noughties. During this time the mobile phones get smaller, the racism and sexism become more cleverly concealed, and Denise and her husband slowly drift further and further apart.

Thankfully, Richard Coyle’s hair also gets progressively less bulky, and it eventually becomes possible to watch him in a scene without sniggering quietly to yourself.

This gritty, historical crime drama is basically Life on Mars painted with much finer and more subtle strokes – the Gene Hunts and Sam Tylers being toned down and opened out to resemble something like real people.
Life of Crime feels very authentic indeed, not least for the fact that the police take about 30 years to track down a rapist.