Gangs of London: first American review

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It’s been six long years since director Gareth Evans blessed us with The Raid 2, which featured his distinct blend of frenzied martial arts mixed with a gripping crime story. And while its supposed involvement in DC’s Deathstroke film appears to have stalled, streaming provider AMC +, in partnership with Sky Atlantic, is launching an exciting new TV series from Evans and cinematographer Matt Flannery, titled Gangs of London. Its narrative structure, Gangs of London embodies many themes and character studies previously explored in past gangster films, most notably The Godfather. The series centers on Wallace’s criminal family, who, after losing their patriarch – Finn Wallace (played by Star Trek: TNG’s Colm Meaney) – appointed his son to take over the family business. In many ways, Sean Wallace (played by Joe Cole of Peaky Blinders) is similar to Michael Corleone of Al Pacino; both are ambitious, cunning and ruthless in their quest for justice for the fathers they have lost.Recalling Pacino, Cole does a wonderful job exuding an ominous calm, with a deadly gaze and a determined manner of speaking, as if afraid of missing a syllable. After watching Cole portray rebellious and often immature John Shelby on Peaky Blinders for three seasons, it’s refreshing to see the young actor take on a more complex character like Sean. And like any good crime story, with being the new boss comes a slew of new enemies outside the family, and even a few inside who are jealous of Sean’s newfound power. Brian’s Billy Wallace Vernel (Sean’s brother) is the Fredo Corleone of the story, struggling to live up to his father’s expectations before and after his death, with his excessive drug use and general lack of ambition. Like Michael and Fredo, Billy and Sean’s relationship is complicated, but also endearing, as Sean does his best to protect his brother from himself. Hopefully Billy won’t suffer the same fate as Fredo… Time will tell.Game of Thrones’ Michelle Fairley as Finn’s widow Marian Wallace quietly watches all the chaos in the background as Sean runs the family business. Like the Lady of Winterfell she once was, Fairley uses her dominant on-screen presence to great effect here, playing doubles as the injured widow while making her own moves without Sean’s permission. In the same vein as her late husband, Marian has her own enemies, notably her daughter Jacqueline (Valene Kane), who seems to despise her mother for unknown reasons. In these early episodes, there is a double suspensive threat where it is unclear whether the Wallace family will be destroyed from within the family or by outside forces.

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While other criminal organizations claim to be in unison with the Wallace family, each has their own interests at heart. Fortunately, Evans and Flannery give their gangsters a bit of history, including character building scenes with each crime boss with their families or in their respective communities. The diverse supply of criminals includes a Pakistani leader named Asif Afridi (Asif Raza Mir), and the Wallace family’s most convincing opponent from the start is Narges Rashidi’s Lale, a Kurdish activist with a vendetta to settle and a Entertaining backstory that we won’t spoil here. The writer’s attention to detail with each of his characters, even if they’re only in a scene or two, really makes Gangs of London stand out from other titles in the genre.

And last but not least are the beautifully choreographed fight sequences sprinkled throughout the first of three episodes. Evans and Flannery, having worked together on both The Raid movies, have a deep understanding of how to create jaw-dropping action in every frame of a fight. The majority of these high-octane brawls focus on one of Wallace’s promising infantry, Elliot Finch (played by Sope Dirisu of the Humans). Dirisu’s character has a background in boxing, so while the fights are still very over the top, the fight still feels grounded and somewhat realistic for a guy who knows how to throw a punch – Dirisu doesn’t turn around and do crazy kicks like Iko Uwais or Yayan Ruhian from The Raid franchise. Elliot’s storyline turns out to be one of the most intriguing of the early episodes – and not just because it’s the focal point of so many incredible action sequences.

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