TV hardman Ross Kemp kicked off ITV’s Crime and Punishment season with an in-depth critique of Fyodor Dostoevsky’s classic 1866 novel. Not really. This is a themed season of true-crime fare and Ross Kemp and the Armed Police (ITV) found the former actor discovering how police forces are dealing with the rising tide of shootings in our cities.
Kemp accompanied armed West Midlands Police units on the streets of Birmingham before crossing to the other side of the law, meeting a smuggler who imports illegal weapons and gang members who used them. Gun crime has increased by 20 per cent in the past year. We heard how the police were armed in response to terror attacks but have instead found themselves fighting drug gangs.
At times it teetered on the brink of self-parody. Clad in all-black and a bulletproof vest (tough!), Kemp conducted grim-faced interviews (gritty!), swaggered down streets (urban!) and burst through doors (butch!), while booming his narration in that Jeremy Clarkson style of long… pauses with random bursts… of SHOUTING. I was reminded of Sacha Baron Cohen’s Who is America? spoofs or Danny Dyer’s laddish series about Cockney gangsters and football hooligans back in the Noughties.
With its action movie soundtrack and slow motion shots of spraying bullets, the film couldn’t decide whether it was condemning gun culture or secretly thrilled by it. In fact, it was at its best when Kemp let his guard down: admitting that he was scared during an armed raid or shedding a tear when comforting a mother whose son was gunned down in a London playground.
Kemp has turned into an award-winning documentary-maker. It was just a shame that this film didn’t strike a more intelligent tone.