Whilst, on the face of it, Sky1’s four-part serial Mad Dogs may seem like Sexy Beast: ‘The TV Series’, the star-filled drama may be as gruesome but it’s also packed with humour and the failings and insecurities of middle-aged men.
Carrying on directly form where Episode 1 left off, the four men – played by Phillip Glenister (Life On Mars), John Simm (Doctor Who), Max Beesley (Survivors) and Marc Warren (Hustle) – have to deal with the murder of their friend Alvo by a midget wearing a Tony Blair mask. Yup, you read correctly.
What follows is an incredibly tense scene, despite the presence of the ex-Prime Minister mini-clone, with the little guy planting evidence on the group, covering Simm’s character in blood. The fear is palpable as the men cannot cope with the dramatic events and the consequences they face. Simm’s fragile portrayal is most effective, particularly during a scene where we find him weeping in the bath.
Indeed, this episode seems to focus on masculinity in crisis. None of the friends can think or act rationally and it takes the presence of a police-woman, who they first mistake for a cleaner, to completely unravel their collective male conscious. She questions them individually and the breakdown begins as they are unable to hide what has happened – even though they are an innocent party. The woman may be looking for a murderer, but instead finds boys with issues (and just as guilty).
The camerawork, like last week’s episode, is keen to focus on the face; each of these actors has a fascinatingly watchable face, all with a history and a story to tell. These extreme close-ups lift the tale and give Mad Dogs its core. It would have been quite a different experience with lesser actors, as the story itself is unspectacular and the script adequate.
Glenister, Simm, Warren and Beesley are a most engaging and believable ensemble, especially when they split into two groups, one bitching about the other. They play ‘normal’ men, not gangsters or even criminals. Just normal men who get caught up in someone else’s problem. It’s their mundanity that gives rise to such delightful humour, when one mishap leads to another as they find themselves laden with drugs and confronted with a buyer eager to receive the merchandise.
It’s almost farcical, and we certainly don’t mean that pejoratively, but the actors are resolutely on top form making for a hugely enjoyable romp. And, if that weren’t enough, the boys get their kits off – something for everyone.
Airs at 9pm on Thursday 17th February 2011 on Sky1 and Sky1HD.> Order the DVD on Amazon.