★★★ (out of five)
WEDNESDAY nights threaten to see English TV audiences entangled into a web of Irish gangland crime, drugs and family feuds as acclaimed drama Love/Hate weaves its magic on Channel 5.
Set in modern day Dublin, the series first broadcast in Ireland in 2010, establishes its premise swiftly: Darren Tracey (Robert Sheenan) returns from hiding out in Spain to greet his brother, Robbie, just released from prison, only to find he’s been swiftly and anonymously executed in a drive-by killing. Accusations, blame and revenge are put into motion as we unearth a range of complex relationships set against a previously unseen gangland Dublin.
Yet this contemporary post-boom version of Dublin is rarely depicted: rather than the expected poverty stricken elements of gangland, a new breed of wealthy suburban criminal is shown, driving expensive cars and living in middle class homes.
Perhaps it is a commentary on the corrupt nature of a society where lawyers and judges can be bribed. Love/Hate can be compared to its American counterpart Breaking Bad, where it is also difficult to find a hero to root for in a crime infested world!
Despite initial scenes of fast-paced action and swerving hand held camera work, the first episode certainly attempts to focus on love, hate and individual relationships.
Robert Sheehan excels as Darren, a character far removed from his previous TV role in channel 4’s Misfits. He is utterly believable as a gang figure, asserting his authority in threats of revenge, family allegiance and determination to take care of his older sister, yet at the same time displays a sense of vulnerability.
Disappointingly however, the secondary character, Nidge and his wife Trish are thinly written: their brief conversation in a car park is poorly acted and unbelievable.
In an oddly directed moment, a shot of Nidge trying on a jacket is juxtaposed with shots Robbie’s death. Perhaps the director, David Caffery wanted to contrast the banality of Nidge & Trish’s lives or portray the normalcy of gun crime in Dublin, but it is unclear to the viewer.
Stuart Carolan’s script contains moments of comedy as he utilises Nidge’s clumsy efforts to lighten the mood. Love/Hate also attempts to observe personal relationships and is not simply an action-based drug thriller.
Having said this, in many ways, Love/Hate is predictable and somewhat clichéd in its approach: opening with an online gun-manual video, we are rushed through a montage where every expected element of a gritty crime thriller is hurled at us: a dubious prison release, a suspicious entry at the airport, and an intimate sex scene set against a rap soundtrack and fast paced editing.
Those seeking the craic of the peaceful emerald isle should avert their gaze!
Love/Hate continues for the next three weeks on Channel 5 every Wednesday at 10pm