From the pen of acclaimed crime writer Anthony Horowitz (Foyle’s War, Collision) comes this sleek five-part psychological legal thriller, broadcast across one week on ITV1 earlier this year.
Essentially a James Purefoy vehicle, the star of Rome and Solomon Kane plays Suffolk-based defence barrister William Travers, a former murder specialist now focusing on smaller-scale cases, who gave up his London job after a shattering series of events led to his nervous breakdown. Travers’ fragile mental condition is on the mend at his and wife Jane’s (Dervla Kirwan) picturesque coastal idyll, only to be interrupted by a ‘phone call asking him to return to murder one last time, to defend old university friend, Martin Newall (Nathaniel Parker).
Newall, a high-powered lawyer for oil company Qestrel, stands accused of killing his 22-year-old secretary he had been having an extra-marital affair with. As Travers looks into the case, odious Detective Sergeant Mark Wenborn (played convincingly by Charlie Creed-Miles) simultaneously investigates the fatal shooting of animal rights protester Philip Spaull (Robert Whitelock), the client whose case prompted Travers’ mental collapse. As polar opposites, hate-filled bent cop Wenborn and Guardian-reading liberal Travers’ paths interweave as the truth slowly moves to the surface.
At first glance, Horowitz’s tale seems overly familiar. The ‘serious’ music, grim-faced, charismatic star looking troubled, the endless moral questions and hectoring “what is the nature of truth?” sledgehammer blows add up to something very reminiscent of other recent ITV1 productions such as The Reckoning and the BBC One’s Silk, all glossy, well-made and entertaining, but perhaps lacking something in terms of originality and absence of maverick verve.
Still, though this bears well-known hallmarks, there is much to push Injustice above its myriad competitors. Charlie Creed-Miles, not normally a leading man, shines as a belligerent cop really pushing the anti in anti-hero, as does Nathaniel Parker as Travers’ cuckolded university friend, eliciting just the right amount of sympathy for his ambiguous character. The complicated plot takes big oil’s harmful interventions in Eritrea as a suitably malignant political backdrop to an unfolding conspiracy and the wider-scale implications keep the interested piqued.
Unfortunately, though, the decent Purefoy isn’t given a great deal to work with, and his noble, put-upon hero of the piece comes across as something of a bland protagonist. Attention that could have been poured into the characterisation of Travers is instead spent developing a few sub-plots, notably one involving his wife’s work with young offenders, seemingly purely to tug at the heart strings in a contrived, almost manipulative manner. Kirwan is Jane, despite a strong performance, is again given little to work with, leaving her character as a bit of an unimportant diversion.
Despite its flaws, you could do a lot worse than give Injustice a look. The best TV series spend more time asking questions than answering them, something Horowitz clearly is aware of, and employs to largely great effect here throughout. Revelations are made alongside doubts and, though heavy-handed and clumsy, Injustice at least entertains in the short-term and leaves e viewer thinking for a while longer than the majority of TV drama.
Released on DVD on Monday 13th June 2011 by Acorn.