At first glance, this new mini-series from Sky1 may seem like a jolly Ocean’s 12-style holiday for its cast and crew, filmed in the sunny climes of Majorca, but it becomes apparent that the luscious backdrop is merely a juxtaposition to the unsightly events that take place there.
Starring Max Beesley (Survivors), Philip Glenister (Ashes To Ashes), John Simm (Doctor Who) and Marc Warren (Hustle), Mad Dogs tells the story of five old friends who meet up on the aforementioned holiday island to celebrate the retirement of one of the gang, Alvo (played by Ben Chaplin). But the celebrations take a turn for the worst when old feuds rise and arguments return, not to mention the appearance of a gun-toting Tony Blair…
It’s a familiar conceit as we meet the “lads” man-hugging and teasing vociferously, but bitterness and jealousy soon kick in as all the men have their various histories regurgitated by the success story that is Alvo.
Chaplin (Game On) plays this devilish role with a rather menacing unpleasantness; figuratively whispering into each ear of his “friends”, flicking at the flaws which bubble away just below the surface. The actor rises above his fellow, more famous (and, dare we say, talented) cast members, who all deliver more subdued performances, fitting of their failures as men.
Reuniting Life On Mars duo Glenister and Simm was undoubtedly a smart move. However, they in particular are sedentary in style, although their rage and resentment is well played, seemingly ready to come to the fore at any point.
The direction veers from almost indie art-house – with wonderfully considered shots framing from below, rendering various characters gargantuan in stature, juxtaposed with tight, revealing and absorbing close-ups on the faces of these very familiar actors – to some banal and, it has to be said, tedious POV handheld video camera footage.
This is really the show’s only negative and you’ll soon tire at the overuse of the video camera as it becomes intrusive and intensely noticeable, not to say a bit old hat. However, it does date the middle aged men acutely (men love gadgets) and it would seem that the device will be used throughout the serial as a plot device.
Opening episodes are almost always a difficult beast, but there’s certainly enough style and fine performances amongst the familiar to entice the viewer back for the next instalment.
Airs at 9pm on Thursday 10th February 2011 on Sky1 and Sky1HD.