Friday, 18 February 2011

'MAD DOGS' - Part Two

Friday, 18 February 2011

Last week's opener was a slow-burn setup to the shocking climax, where well-heeled Alvo (Ben Chaplin) was shot in the head by an undersized gangster wearing a grinning Tony Blair mask, in full view of the four friends he'd invited to his luxury Majorcan villa. Part Two dealt with the immediate aftermath of the bloody murder; resulting in a less languorous pace, if ultimately giving things a less innovative, insidious feel.

The key thing this episode had to do was make it seem plausible the gang wouldn't just call the police to report Alvo's murder, as they've done nothing (knowingly) illegal and have each other as support. This was handled very well: the shooter "Tony Blair" (Tomas Pozzi) incriminated Baxter (John Simm) by smearing his saliva on the murder weapon; "Tony" was seen driving away in a police car (placing doubt in everyone's mind that the police are even trustworthy); Baxter reasoned that implicating the cops would make theirs a federal case, meaning they'd be stuck in Majorca for months awaiting trial; and Woody (Max Beesley) realized it looks very suspicious that they arrived on the island and Alvo's villa was signed over to them, shortly before he was killed.

Matters were also nicely complicated the next morning (after the boys had scrubbed the murder scene clean and buried Alvo in the garden) when Spanish detective Maria (MarĂ­a Botto) arrived at the villa, looking for Alvo in relation to Jesus' stolen yacht. The guys spun a story about Alvo having gone to the mainland on business until Tuesday, to satisfy Maria's nosiness, before Rick (Marc Warren) remembered he'd left the DV camera of their holiday footage on the abandoned yacht, prompting a trip to the vessel for another cleanup. And while there, they found themselves caught in the middle of an exchange with drug-dealers, who handed them €3 million. Involving money is the point Mad Dogs really started to resemble a sun-drenched version of Danny Boyle's Shallow Grave for me -- with the friends deciding to cover their tracks, stash the €3 million somewhere safe, continue their holiday, and return home.

If you didn't enjoy the easygoing pace of last week, Part Two was much livelier and nicely broadened the story. I particularly enjoyed Botto's performance as the peculiarly friendly detective, who nevertheless sensed something's amiss about the four men. At times Maria felt like a headmistress arriving to see what four naughty schoolboys have been up to behind their teacher's back (notice how she held Baxter's hand when she took him in for questioning?) This episode built to scenes where Maria interviewed each of them individually at the villa (after they'd hidden Alvo's body in a freezer, having sliced his feet off with an electric knife to fit), and various discrepancies in their story came to light.

Will the foursome split into pairs soon? There were signs here that Baxter and Quinn (Philip Glenister) are closer friends; likewise Rick and Woody. Right now the boys are united as a foursome, but I'm wondering how long it'll be before desperation has them turning on each other.

Overall, Part Two was a strong continuation of this four-part story and definitely better paced. It's certainly an advantage with UK dramas that exist to tell a single story, over a finite period of time. We had the setup and exposition in Part One, Part Two was all about reaction to the aftermath, and I'm sure the remaining two hours will explain exactly what's going on. What was Alvo caught up in? Did he lure his friends to the villa to pin the blame for something on them? Was he killed over the yacht theft, or for something else? I also keep wondering if the whole thing's an elaborate hoax or "game", until I remember that Alvo's definitely dead and surely nobody's that committed to a practical joke!

The only problem with Part Two, in comparison to last week, is that we didn't really learn anything about the characters, and most of the plot was instead driven by hide-the-corpse/money black comedy. There's such a brilliant cast involved in Mad Dogs that you can't help wanting to get under the skin of their characters, but beyond Rick poking fun at Woody's chiseled physique (shades of Alvo's mickey-taking last week), there wasn't much fleshing out of the four leads. It was all about seeing how they reacted to a horrendous situation.

Mad Dogs is proving itself one of the more entertaining British dramas in awhile; beautifully filmed, nicely acted, with a storyline you can't help feeling gripped by. I can't wait to see how it pans out, how about you?


  • I wasn't convinced by the gang's plan to dig up Alvo's body and plant it on the yacht, so the cops will eventually find him and think a drug deal went south. Forensics would surely detect Alvo's body was recently covered in earth, right?
  • I wondered how long it would take Max Beesley to deliver full frontal nudity.
  • I didn't like Part One's flashforward opening, but the same device worked a lot better here; with the four lad's sitting by the pool and the surprise arrival of detective Maria.
  • The mannequin being used as Alvo's dead body was, unfortunately, quite apparent.
written by Cris Cole / directed by Adrian Shergold / 17 February 2011 / Sky1/HD