Is the Sky drama worth watching?

Jason Flemyng in A Town Called Malice. (Sky)

Created by Nick Love (The Sweeney), played by Jason Flemyng (The Walk-In) and filled with pulsating 80s anthems, new crime drama A Town Called Malice launches on Sky Max from 16 March.

This retro crime thriller, set in Spain’s sunny Crime Coast, charts the fortunes of the Lords’ family in south London: a Bermondsey syndicate seeking sunnier climes, after too many run-ins with the law and their criminal competition, forces them on an extended vacation.

In an opening episode drenched in neon nostalgia, audiences are introduced to Gene Lord (Jack Rowan) strutting around a South London nightclub.

To know more: The cast of A Town Called Malice share the perils of TV’s “glamorous crime.”

Towering mounds of lacquered hair and perfectly preened mullets adorn the dance floor, while Gene rebuffs a girl’s advances when he hears her last name. Seconds later he locks eyes with Cindy (Tahirah Sharif), who is serving behind the counter and they strike up a conversation.

Watch the trailer for A Town Called Malice

After a shortened courtship, ending in a predictable bedroom scene, this whirlwind romance only serves to set up further introductions.

The following day they stop outside a spit-and-sawdust drunkard, where Cindy is served as the latest addition to the Lord household. With patriarch Albert (Jason Flemyng) and steely-eyed matriarch Mint Ma (Martha Plimpton) holding court surrounded by her brood, A Town Called Malice immediately feels every inch of the crime cliché.

With style, writer Nick Love uses his score with flair to back up any lack of substance elsewhere. At each occasion the title is used to break up scenes, punctuate moments of dramatic merit and generally remind the audience what era they are watching.

What other critics think of A Town Called Malice

Evening standard: An explosion of fun with an eighties flavor (3 minute read)

The Telegraph: A dive into the nostalgia of the 80s on the Costa del Crime (2 minute read)

From the predictable clash of war between opposing gangs announcing their release in Spain, to Martha Plimpton’s awkward use of profanity, A Town Called Malice feels like a mail order from Guy Ritchie.

The reason for Gene and Cindy’s quick exit to Spain, aside from narrative necessity, is of little consequence as it introduces Dougray Scott as Uncle Tony, a vaudevillian take on an expat abroad, watching senoritas, drinking too much sangria and shamelessly watch Cindy in sight.

Sporting a swollen snail on his upper lip and hopping around a naked male, this distant member of the Lord clan is pure shiny trash.

Cindy Carter (Tahirah Sharif), Uncle Tony (Dougray Scott) and Gene Lord (Jack Rowan) in A Town Called Malice (Sky)

Cindy Carter (Tahirah Sharif), Uncle Tony (Dougray Scott) and Gene Lord (Jack Rowan) in A city called malice (Sky)

How things escalate from there is also somewhat predictable, but ultimately culminates in the mass descent of Clan Lord. With storylines that are evenly split between the sunny beaches of Spain and the seedy flats of Bermondsey, A Town Called Malice rarely sets the heart racing.

Of the central cast, only Tahirah Sharif (The Haunting of Bly Manor) and Martha Plimpton (The Man Who Fell to Earth) make an impact. There’s a pre-possession to her portrayal of Cindy that results in some solid acting choices, lending this character an almost magnetic quality.

To know more: All new on Sky in March

Similarly, American actress Martha Plimpton disappears into Mint Ma Lord’s veil, inhabiting every inch of this South London figurehead.

Unfortunately, these performance highlights are overshadowed by a thinly plotted crime caper, which offers few surprises and for the most part lacks momentum. There may be copious shootings, some clandestine plots between Gene and Cindy, not to mention Jason Flemyng in full on Cockney geezer mode, but those pleasures are diminished by everything else.

Mint Ma Lord (Martha Plimpton), Leonard Lord (Lex Shrapnel), Gene Lord (Jack Rowan), Carly Lord (Eliza Butterworth), Cindy Carter (Tahirah Sharif) and Albert Lord (Jason Flemyng) in A Town Called Malice (Sky )

Mint Ma Lord (Martha Plimpton), Leonard Lord (Lex Shrapnel), Gene Lord (Jack Rowan), Carly Lord (Eliza Butterworth), Cindy Carter (Tahirah Sharif) and Albert Lord (Jason Flemyng) in A Town Called Malice (Sky )

For the most part, it seems like a lot of extremely gifted actors are wasted on two-dimensional roles. Try as they may to squeeze genuine pathos out of proceedings, there is no real darkness in those darkest moments, while any light comedy used to defuse tensions misses the mark.

A fact that strikes hardest when any use of profanity lacks impact, due to the absence of dramatic need. In short: words f and other high-ranking profanities are used for shock purposes only.

Which means A Town Called Malice ultimately feels underwhelming, considering the caliber of talent involved. Beyond calling the role of classic ’80s filler from The Jam through to The Clash and Tears for Fears, this Sky-funded crime thriller is mediocre at best with a few redeeming features.

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For cinematic alternatives more in line with expectations, audiences may want to seek out Jonathan Glazer’s Sexy Beast, which sees Sir Ben Kingsley raise hell on Ray Winstone’s Don Logan. Bossy and bullish: he burns his on-screen co-star to ashes with a legendary tirade of inventive vulgarity.

That’s everything A Town Called Malice wanted to be, but it sadly never gets close to realizing.

A Town Called Malice is available on Sky Max and the NOW streaming service from 16 March.

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