It’s a brave director who takes on a story of filial-fuelled revenge in 1970s northern England, but Vince Woods has done just that with his first flick, Harrigan.
Bolshy, brash, and just back from Hong Kong, DS Barry Hannigan returns to his home town — never named, but clearly Newcastle — and begins to clean up the streets. In his way stands a suspicious new boss and in the background an office full of chain-smoking, always boozing, kipper tie wearing period coppers.
TV’s Mr. Nice, Stephen Tomkinson, plays against type, rocking up as the eponymous hero, a glum man with a tragic back-story and a tedious voiceover. Landing once more in his hometown and his old desk, Harrigan is disturbed by the half-arsed police work and the carte blanche enjoyed by gang masters Craig Conway and Ronnie Fox.
Naturally, Harrigan shakes things up in the station and on the street as he tries to reverse the fortunes of Probably Newcastle. In doing so he plays ultra good cop, ultra bad cop like some strange hybrid of Dixon of Dock Green and Harry Callahan. Pensioners and single mums are reassured with a kind word and local hard men get their heads stoved in.
The ’70s setting — all three-day weeks and scabbing through the picket lines — and dark, dank locations full of nihilistic crims means there’s no escaping Harrigan’s lineage. There’s a large debt due to Get Carter, one of the finest British gangster movies, as well as a slightly smaller nod to early episodes of ’90s landmark drama Our Friends in the North.
Here’s Harrigan’s biggest problem; it’s not a bad story, and one would hesitate to pull up its author, ex-copper turned pulp novelist Arthur McKenzie, on any of the finer details of 1970s police procedure. But Harrigan was written as a television series and it feels like it’s escaped from a development meeting, armed with a foul mouth and a little more violence than you might like with your Saturday night viewing.