CREATED BY: Gareth Evans and Matt Flannery
STARRING: Joe Cole, Asif Raza Mir, Sope Dirisu, Lucian Msamati, Michelle Fairley, Mark Lewis Jones, Valene Kane, Narges Rashidi, Jing Lusi, Pippa Bennett-Warner, Brian Vernel, Orli Shuka, Richard Harrington, Jude Akuwudike, Emmett J. Scanlan, Colm Meaney, Aled ap Steffan, David Bradley, Paapa Essiedu, Adrian Power, Ray Panthaki, Constantine Gregory, Garry Cooper, Darren Evans, Garmon Rhys, Serena Kennedy, Aksel Ustun and Kwong Loke
Tells the story of London being torn apart by the turbulent power struggles of the international gangs that control it and the sudden power vacuum that’s created when the head of London’s most powerful crime family is assassinated.
Set in the heart of London, the series focuses on the city being torn apart by the turbulent power struggles of international gangs that control it and the sudden power vacuum that’s created when the head of London’s most powerful crime family for the last twenty years, Finn Wallace, is assassinated. With rivals everywhere and with no idea who ordered the hit, it’s up to his impulsive son Sean Wallace, and the help of the Dumani family headed by Ed Dumani, to take Finn’s place. While Ed looks to maintain order, Sean’s crusade to find his fathers killer causes ripples in the world of international crime within the streets of London, which consists of the Albanian mafia headed by Luan Dushaj, the Turkish mafia, Pakistani drug cartel, Jamaican yardies, Chinese triads, Italian ‘Ndrangheta, Welsh travellers, and various other criminal elements. One man that gets caught up in the crime families rift is Elliot Finch, who up until now has been a lowlife chancer with a mysterious interest in the Wallace family. But as the wind of fate blows, Elliot finds himself transported into the inner workings of the largest criminal organisation in London.
Gangs of London is created by Gareth Evans and Matt Flannery, who have been frequent collaborators on films like The Raid franchise and Apostle, with Evan as director and Flannery as cinematographer. The opening scene, which sees Sean setting alight another victim from the top of a skyscraper as he tries to find information that could potentially lead him to his father’s killer, sets the tone and what you’d expect going forward with the series. Visually gripping, with elements of stylish violence, which the opening episode delivers in buckets, as the pivotal character that we embark with most of the action sequences with is Elliot Finch, as he goes through a chaotic pub crawl with his fists and a dart being his only weapons, and then in the episodes climax he comes up against a Welsh traveller that’s a mountain in size, wearing white undies, a pair of boots and wielding a meat cleaver.
The action sequences are executed perfectly, from how the combat sequences are choreographed, to how they’re filmed and storyboarded out. One sequence in particular from my favourite episode of the season (episode five) involves a race against the clock as one character has to get to another character in time before a hit squad arrives to take them out, no witnesses. It’s a stunning sequence and should be in contention for most memorable scene of the year for a television series. While hyper-violent, it doesn’t exist for the sake of violence sake, there’s consequences that comes with each action and once the bodies start to pile up, it’s only a matter of time that the coalition that exists amongst the several families begins to crumble. While the series will initially be talked about as ‘It has your man from Peaky Blinders in it’, it’s a true testament to the writing and the performances amongst the ensemble that not one character carries the series on their shoulders, as there’s some really interesting characters that have depth and ferocity, with some intriguing backstories and arcs going through the season. We have Ed Dumani, the head of the Dumani family and best friend of the late Finn since childhood, during the late ’50’s of the ‘No Blacks, No Irish’ period. His attempts to keep the business running smoothly as possible in his friends absence, whilst holding on to the secrets of a dead man and having to prevent Sean from setting fire to everything he and Finn built together makes him a compelling character, with Lucian Msamati giving a commanding performance as Ed. Michelle Fairley performance as Marian Wallace is the Lady Stoneheart from Game of Thrones we never got to see, as her streak for revenge shadow’s Sean’s, as she might be the most dangerous of them all in the Wallace family. Joe Cole is the poster figure of the series and he gives a moody bravado as Sean Wallace, an imposing figure that’s on a rampage yet we see his vulnerability in flashbacks to his childhood that shape the figure we see in the present. Sope Dirisu will get most of the praise with his performance as Elliot Finch, on both the physical and dramatic side. Sope gets the majority of the fight scenes and watching this initial mysterious lowly ranked Wallace foot soldier, that ends up becoming Sean’s right-hand man, has you deeply interested in his characters journey, as well as the developing relationship with Ed’s daughter Shannon Dumani (played really well by Pippa Bennett-Warner). From the supporting ensemble, I really enjoyed Narges Rashidi’s performance as Lale, Kurdish PKK militant that’s a member of the coalition, though has a interesting backstory involving fellow member and rival Asif Afridi. Another person that impressed me with their performance was Orli Shuka as Luan Dushaj, leader of the Albanian mafia who gets one very memorable scene towards the conclusion of the season and a more flesh-out character than what he initially appears in the series. Another memorable performance was Mark Lewis Jones as Kinney Edwards, leader of a group of Welsh travellers whose caught up in the mix as his son was the one who was ordered to kill (unbeknownst to him) Finn Wallace.
The series moves at a fast-pace with multiple arcs and several characters, it’s not surprising that a few feel underdeveloped and lost in the shuffle, and some viewers might even be lost themselves as to who’s who whenever people are talking about certain characters. There’s a member of the coalition, Chinese triad that appears in the first episode and then pretty much disappears during the course of the season. While Asif Afridi is built to be a character to fear, he stays away from the story for too long in the middle portion and his son, Nasir, is pretty limited with his screentime as well, though his story also serves a purpose. Another figure that I wish was developed further was Ray Panthaki’s Jevan Kapadia, whose pivotal in the overall arc yet I wasn’t given enough to have a reason to like or dislike the character, he just serves as a go-between figure. In terms of the graphic detail the violence is showcased here, I think this would put off those that are screamish at the sight of blood as there’s some moments here where it is wince-inducing. As much as I enjoyed the journey of the series, and while I’m glad that there’s enough to look forward to if Evans and Flannery (and Sky and Cinemax) decide to make another season, there’s certain elements of the finale I didn’t like, especially the stinger scene right before the credits.
If a crime drama with elements of martial arts fight sequences and ultra-violence sounds like your thing, then say hello to your new television obsession. Gangs of London is an impressively engaging crime drama, with terrific action sequences that you’ve come to expect from Gareth Evans and Mike Flannery, with some solid performances, particularly Joe Cole, Michelle Fairley, Sope Dirisu, Lucian Msamati, Narges Rashidi and Orli Shuka.