First look TV review: Irvine Welsh’s Crime
James R | On 18, Nov 2021
“The road to hell is paved with ignorance.” Those are the words of DI Ray Lennox (Dougray Scott) in Crime, BritBox’s new original crime drama. Based on Irvine Welsh’s novel of the same name, the series is adapted by Welsh himself for the screen, along with Dean Cavanagh (the pair co-wrote the recent Creation Stories). Welsh’s name itself is already reason to sit up and pay attention, although it may also leave those expecting Trainspotting-style telly disappointed.
What unfolds is a surprisingly conventional police procedural, as the disappearance of a child – Britney Hamil – leads to a manhunt, after a figure is seen kidnapping her in a van, with the culprit concealed by a CCTV blindspot. There’s a questionable grandfather and an even more dubious father waiting in the wings to be accused – and then there’s the notorious killer Mr Confectioner, who was arrested years ago for kidnapping several girls. Could they have got the wrong man and left the real Mr Confectioner at large?
Lennox, of course, suspects that’s the case, and his boss, Bob (Ken Stott), naturally has no interest in raking over the past and insists that he follows orders. So far, so normal, and even the series’ determination to showcase the darker, grimier side of Edinburgh feels like the done thing. The inclusion of some moderately underwritten female characters to balance out the genre’s testosterone tendencies – Joanna Vanderham bringing depth to Lennox’s colleague, Amanda, and Angela Griffin doing her best with the material she’s given as Lennox’s girlfriend, Trudi – doesn’t do much to freshen things up, although Jamie Sives (Guilt) has some fun as the scene-stealing DI Dougie Gillman.
There’s no rule that all crime dramas have to do something new, though, and for those who can put aside the weight of expectations that Welsh’s name carries will find a compelling and engrossingly grim drama – with a much higher level of swearing than you’d find on a BBC or ITV programme. But the real reason to tune in is Dougray Scott, who gets a rare and deserved leading role. He is simply sensational as Lennox, a recovering drink and drug addict who swings from pent-up disgust at the world around him to howling agony in one memorable scene that takes place on Calton Hill. He doesn’t just inhabit a character with personal demons; he rolls his sleeves up and wrestles with them like a fiendish force in his own right. Flashes of imagined confrontations see him rebel against his superiors, but even without those flourishes, his brooding, landmine-esque presence is magnetic to watch. Lennox tells us that he views his job as an almost elemental fight against evil and there’s certainly a darkness to Crime that marks it out from the pack. For all its familiar elements, that’s something that the show isn’t ignorant of.
Crime is available on BritBox, as part of a £5.99 monthly subscription.