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Written by Guy Andrews, co-creator and co-writer of the series Chancer, this mini-series, originally shown in three parts on the UK's ITV network, featured Hugh Laurie as a charming man who has everything - a secure career as a financial market analyst, a wealthy wife, adoring children, a wide circle of friends and two homes. Like so many people in his position, he wants more; but, more rarely, he wants to make everybody happy. He hits on an amazing scheme to do both but ends up gambling everything he has with tragic consequences.
The director, Andrew Grieve, has described the drama as being "a three-hour descent into the hell of a life ruined by an addiction. But this is not an addiction to drugs or love or power. It's the addiction to danger, to putting yourself on the edge".
Hugh Laurie is horrifyingly convincing as the charming City con man, and I would defy anyone starting to watch this gripping tale not wanting to see it through to the end. An added bonus is comedian Bob Monkhouse, unusually playing a serious dramatic role.
Take it as a modern morality tale, or simply as extremely high-quality escapist drama, this is high-octane stuff that really never got the acclaim it surely merited. If you can see a repeat, or hire a DVD/tape of this, you've got a treat in store. Take the phone off the hook, and have your favourite drink by your side....
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Hugh Laurie completists and House cultists are warned not to expect too
much from this ambitious 3-part miniseries from '93. At first my wife
and I were intrigued and impressed, then perplexed and finally
disappointed; we spent at least as much time discussing it as we did
watching it, and I've obviously put far too much time and effort into
composing this review.
HL plays Leo Hopkins, a charming guy with a mid-level job in the City, a rich, adoring wife and a taste for luxurious living. We learn that he's already spent his next two years' salary, even though his wife pays most of the bills, but his friends assume (I wasn't sure why) that Leo could only have managed this through his own financial wizardry. They hand over large chunks of cash for him to invest, and Leo, who seems incapable of refusing any request from anyone, proceeds to (low level spoiler alertthough the picture on the N'flix webpage gives it away too) fritter it away at the track.
At this point, Leo says that he feels like a circus juggler with too many plates in the air, and scriptwriter Guy Andrews ends up in a similar fix by the beginning of episode 3. (This means that while disc 1 is quite entertainingwe watched it twicedisc 2 is a bit of a mess and only about 80 minutes long.) Long story short, Leo's got nothing when the Fraud Squad comes sniffing around, and Andrews tries hard, maybe too hard, to make it all seem like it means something by dragging in a weighty backstory involving Leo's vicar father, symbolic shots of burning banknotes and a couple of puzzling schoolboy traumas. I was hoping some intrepid online reviwer would have taken a stab at interpreting this sequence of arty, almost Bergmanesque b&w flashbacks; they're skillfully shot and edited but in the end seemed contrived, confusing and emotionally unconvincing. Did anyone who's already seen the series understand what the connection is meant to be between the Reverend Hopkins's whacky sermons, his drinking, groping and other manifestations of his unhappiness, and Leo's behavior as an adult?
HL's performance is fascinating, of course, and the supporting cast is first rate; the admirable Pippa Guard, as Leo's cheeky secretary, gets some of the best lines ("As my old Divinity teacher used to say, he looked like a dog with a sore cock"); as you can tell from this, the vocab would be suited only for premium cable in the US. Writer and director can't be faulted for lack of ambition, but good acting and snappy dialogue can't make up for a hole in the script big enough to drive a couple of spirited three-year-olds through
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