Film Review: HARRIGAN verses THE RISE: which British crime drama will you see?

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On 20 September, two British crime dramas will go head to head. THE RISE is the debut feature of Rowan Athale and will receive a multi-platform release in cinemas, video on demand and on i-Tunes. According to its director, Vince Woods, HARRIGAN is inspired by FORT APACHE THE BRONX, only it does not have Paul Newman, or anyone like him. Both are set up North (that’s Northern Britain), the former in present day and the latter in 1974. Is there anything to choose between them? This calls for some probing questions.


Do they have any blokes off the telly?

Well, Timothy Spall, him off AUF WIEDERSEHEN PET, plays a copper (policeman) in THE RISE. Stephen Tompkinson from BALLYKISSANGEL plays the title role of HARRIGAN.

I don’t know any of those programmes.

AUF WIEDERSEHEN PET was about a group of British brickies, sorry, bricklayers, who go to work in Germany. It made a star out of Jimmy Nail –

You’ve lost me.

Me too! BALLYKISSANGEL was some cutesy Irish baloney.

You wanted to say shite!

Yes, I wanted to say ‘shite’.

That Stephen Tompkinson, does he look like Paul Newman?

No, he looks like Peter Capaldi.

Peter Who?

You won’t be saying that when he takes over as DOCTOR WHO next year.

I don’t have PBS.

OK, I admit it. He’s not been in DOWNTON ABBEY, so he’s a nobody!

By the way, is there going to be a DOWNTON ABBEY movie?

Yes, it’s called GOSFORD PARK. May I continue?

Only asking! So what’s the story?

THE RISE is about a young lad, Harvey Miller, played by Luke Treadaway, who gets out of nick having been wrongly convicted of drug possession and dealing.

Isn’t that what they all say?

No, he really is not guilty of drug possession and dealing.

But everybody really does say that in his position. There aren’t any genuine dealers.

Whatever! Anyway, he wants revenge on the dealer, Steven Roper (Neil Maskell) who set him up.

Why did he do that?

Because he fancied Harvey’s girlfriend (Vanessa Kirby), who is a nurse.

Is that a legitimate reason to frame a man?

Probably not!

Does Steven move in on the girl in Harvey’s absence?

If he does, we don’t hear about it.

Are you sure?

Well, some of the dialogue is impenetrable. Bad dubbing, I think, or bad sound.

That Steven bloke, he should have got sick and then he could have seen the nurse every day.

But he had a security firm to run as a front for his drug dealing business.


Anyway, Harvey gets together with three of his mates with a plan to raise £55,000 to buy a 50% share in a coffee house in Amsterdam.

£55,000. Are you sure that buys 50% of the business?

Look, it’s not exactly DRAGON’S DEN. It’s just the set up. Anyway, Roper thinks Harvey is up to something and gets to one of his friends. Some masked men duff him up, stuff him in a lock-up garage and start a fire. The friend struggles to get out. It’s the tensest bit in the movie.

So what happens?

That would be telling. Anyway, the plan is to rob the safe in a Working Man’s Club where Roper keeps his ill-gotten gains.

Where does Timothy Spall fit in?

He is interviewing Harvey at the beginning of the film. We know there has been a robbery. Roper has ended up in hospital. Harvey is going to keep the Police Inspector there a while.

How long?

One hour 45 minutes.

Does it have any car chases?

No. There is a sequence in which a bus returns to the Working Man’s Club –

And there is a spectacular crash?

No, it just sort of parks.

Does it have a good soundtrack?

Not particularly.

Does it have BAFTA award-nominated performances?


Why do the four young stars look like a rock band? I was expecting SPIKE ISLAND.

I can’t help you there.

Should it be in cinemas?

It has that ‘unreliable narrator gimmick’. A story is told one way and then, ‘here is what really happened’.

Is that it?

There is the occasional gratuitous high angle. The pay-off is sort of clever. It has that ITALIAN JOB kick.

That’s good, isn’t it?

Well, I didn’t really believe in the relationship between Harvey and his girlfriend. She gets back with him, but does not help him find a paying job. We know Harvey is scared of her father, but I expected a probation officer to turn up or something. Anyway, don’t think about the plot too much.

But, as you say, it has a scene in which a character is brutally treated and this gives the hero extra motivation.


Does that same scene turn up in HARRIGAN?

Funny you should ask. Actually a bloke gets killed.

So it’s a cliché?

Yes, people do generally tend to die in police dramas.

HARRIGAN – what’s the story?

My name’s not Harrigan. He is actually a Police Officer who returned from Hong Kong who has come back to his old station. Only there have been one or two changes.

Lick of paint?

No, they have shut down the station houses.

What’s a station house?

It’s an unmarked police station with a set of cells –

And a kettle?

Yes, there is a kettle. Anyway, budget cuts. Key workers are on three day weeks.

Like zero hour contracts.

Yes, like zero hour contracts. There have been budget cuts.

So it’s a commentary on Britain today.

Steady on! It is set in 1974. Crimes go unpunished. Wee lads get run over. Mothers don’t feel safe. There are cockneys up North.

Is there gratuitous drug taking?

Funny enough, no!

Is there a car chase?

No, they don’t have the budget.

What happened to car chases in British movies? The getaway sequence in the original ITALIAN JOB was iconic. SUMMER HOLIDAY was iconic. HOLIDAY ON THE BUSES was iconic. Plus you Brits love TOP GEAR.

You saw the naff car chase in the remake of THE SWEENEY?


Need I say any more?

I’ve read the publicity material and it says that HARRIGAN is a pretty gritty Britty, er, film. How gritty is it?

Not really. Budget limitations are present throughout. It does have some tough talking but we’re talking PG-13 in American terms.

You haven’t told me the story.

Harrigan returns from Hong Kong. He’s killed a man. He’s one week away from retirement –

And he’s paired with Mel Gibson? He says he’s too old for this spit?

No, he gets paired with an Anglo-Chinese rookie called Lau.

Are there puns about the long arm of the Lau?


All that heaven A – Lau’s?

Enough of the puns!

Lau-Lau on the Bridge?

I don’t even get that one.

It’s a reference to Paul Auster’s first film as director.

You are getting esoteric.

No, you can get it on i-tunes.

Actions speak Lau-der than words. (Takes a swing at the questioner)

This Harrigan – does he have a back story?

He writes letters to his dead daughter.

That’s a literary conceit.

No, they’re unpublished. Anyway, his wife and daughter were murdered by the villain who happens to still be out on the streets in his old neighbourhood.

So it’s a revenge story like THE RISE?

Not really. He’s a copper, not a vigilante. He opens up the old station house and he beats up the abusive husband of a colleague after she shows up at work in bruises.

In bruises? Isn’t that a Martin McDonagh film?

With bruises, sorry! Anyway, he couldn’t save his wife and daughter, so he looks after a colleague and a single mother who is the victim of a local villain. And he talks down a very tall man in a church siege situation. Lau knows martial arts and there is a little bit of –

Kung Fu Fighting?

No, it’s more like a scrap really.

What’s the big set piece?

A siege in a re-opened station house, but it takes an age to get into ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 territory.

Is it exciting?

No, but it has an unexpected deus ex machina?

You what?

A God-like intervention!

Is there a young smarmy boss who talks down to Harrigan?


Are there gratuitous sex scenes?

This isn’t the 1970s.

I thought you said it was set there.

Yes. Well...

Neither one sounds like my cup of tea.

ABOUT TIME will be in its third week of release. You could see that.

You forget to mention that Arthur McKenzie, the writer of HARRIGAN, was an ex-copper.

Yes, but his script does not have the whiff of authenticity.

Cockneys up North?



About the author


Independent film critic who just wants to witter on about movies every so often. Very old (by Hollywood standards).

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