Crime, review: yes, it's yet another crime drama – but Irvine Welsh's new series is a different beast
Irvine Welsh, the creator of Crime, has said this new drama would never have worked on traditional TV because it’s so “hardcore”. Instead, he’s taken it to the edgy media disruptor that is, er, BritBox.
In fact, you could easily imagine Crime on Channel 4. Not the other main channels though, I’ll give him that. Too much swearing. That’s one of the things that marks it out as an Irvine Welsh production; another is the presence of a character so repulsive – a foul-mouthed, sexist detective, played by Guilt’s Jamie Sives – that you might prefer an evening in the company of Trainspotting’s Begbie.
On paper, it’s a standard police procedural – missing girl, list of suspects, experienced investigator thrown together with rookie sidekick – of the kind you find everywhere. But what lifts it above the ordinary is an incendiary performance from Dougray Scott. He plays Ray Lennox, a hardbitten DI in Serious Crime working the mean streets of Edinburgh. To say Lennox is battling his own demons would be understating things to quite a degree.
Struggling to keep a grip on his sanity and sobriety, Lennox doesn’t so much solve crimes as avenge them. Scott delivers every line with a burning intensity yet manages at the same time to convey the character’s emotional fragility, and the toll that his job is taking. When a victim’s body is found, he howls in anguish. Every moment he’s on screen is mesmerising.
With co-writer Dean Cavanagh, Welsh has loosely adapted his 2008 novel. Each episode crackles with unpredictability and energy. It takes you to places that you don’t expect. Sometimes you’re not quite sure if you’re watching Lennox’s real actions or you’re inside his head. Like Trainspotting, Crime revels in showing us the grimier side of Edinburgh that lies just off the tourist trail. There are paedophiles around every corner. The abducted schoolgirl lives on a miserable estate, her mother turning up drunk to sports day.
The supporting cast is great – Ken Stott as Lennox’s boss, Joanna Vanderham as a right-on DS who soon learns the ropes. The local politician is more of a caricature, a unionist who makes sinister speeches about Scotland’s future (Welsh, you will be unsurprised to learn, supports Scottish independence).
It’s superior stuff, but with one reservation. Here we have yet another drama falling back on the rape, torture and murder of young women as fodder for a plot, the camera lingering on the ligature marks on a corpse and characters – including a pathologist – discussing the details in larky tones. That’s not “hardcore”. It’s depressing.