Thursday, 3 September 2009


Thursday, 3 September 2009

[SPOILERS] The premise remains one of British TV's juiciest: a former soldier imprisoned for avenging his sister's rape is given early release and manipulated into becoming a state-sanctioned hitman, tasked with assassinating a breed of professional criminal the police can't touch. So why isn't The Fixer quite as thrilling, suspenseful, violent, and action-packed as it should be?

Like a lot of British TV shows with an exciting idea at its core, it's let down by drab execution (no pun intended) and an assortment of creative decisions that inhibit the vigilante thriller I'm primed and ready for. Frustratingly, The Fixer continues to be a series I rather hope gets sold to America, where the likes of HBO or Showtime could do the premise justice.

In this premiere of the delayed second series, "the fixer" John Mercer (Andrew Buchan) is told by his handler Lenny (Peter Mullan) to investigate a drug-dealer called Clinton McSmith (Johann Myers), whose barbershop den is just the tip of a business iceberg involving child trafficking -- a lucrative network masterminded by Clinton's mentor, incarcerated convict Leo Westbrook (Mark Benton). A teenage girl called Savanna (Nichola Burley) holds the key to jailing Clinton if she testifies against him in court, so Rose (Tamzin Outhwaite) rescues her from an acid attack designed to scare (or scar?) her into keeping quiet, and takes her to a safehouse. Meanwhile, Savanna's boyfriend B (Ashley Chin) tries to sever his own ties to Clinton to be with his girl.

The story wasn't too bad, and became quite involving in the second half, even if I wasn't sure why CID couldn't have handled this situation far better, as there were quite a few instances where a 999 call would surely have been a wiser move than sending in John with his irritating sidekick Callum (Jody Latham). General problems from last year are still evident, such as the fact Rose's character was again surplus to requirement and just stayed at home playing mum with Savanna for the whole hour. I was hoping to see improvements to the show with this episode, or at least a sense of refinement to the formula, but it was business as usual with no significant changes. Personally, I don't find Rose or Callum's presence at all plausible or compelling, and while I know a lot of people like how the gang are far from bosom buddies, a bit of comeraderie wouldn't go amiss. They're a tough bunch to like, even when trying to rescue a kid from a life of sexual slavery.

Far better is the always excellent Peter Mullan as the trio's grim Scottish boss, whose voice gives the nation's subwoofers a good rumble everytime he's on-screen. I can tolerate Andrew Buchan now, too, although I still find him a bit soft and pretty to be a persuasive hitman type. No matter how much he clenches his jaw and slaps a magazine into a gun, I keep wishing they'd cast someone with a bit of edge and tangible screen presence. The Fixer needs a conflicted, tormented bruiser with a soft centre in the lead (a smallscreen Jason Statham type, say), but instead we have an actor who would make a good romantic squeeze in a Bridget Jones movie.

But these are problems it's hardly worth mentioning, as a radical recasting session isn't on the cards so deep into the show's life. Overall, The Fixer is positioned to be a timely slice of gritty fantasy, as it's essentially about normal people trying to fix "broken Britain" in ways paperwork and "due process" can't. We all harbour a secret desire to take matters into our own hands and start knocking some skulls together, and it's a fantasy that made characters in the likes of Death Wish so popular. I just wish The Fixer found some vitality and energy to successfully put the nation's unspoken fantasy up on the screen, instead of producing these murkily shot, extended episodes of a fairly generic crime drama.

1 September 2009
ITV1, 9pm

written by: Ben Richards directed by: Sam Miller starring: Andrew Buchan (John Mercer), Tamzin Outhwaite (Rose Chamberlain), Jody Latham (Calum McKenzie), Peter Mullan (Lenny Douglas), Phil Davis (Roger Bowland), Mark Benton (Leo Westbrook), Johann Myers (Clinton McSmith), Nichola Burley (Savanna Ford), Ashley Chin (B), Jamie Glover (Jamie), Rob Jarvis (Hyde), Elisa Terren (Manuela) & Elliot Cowan (Matthew Symmonds)