Our Crime and the City columnist and international correspondent Paul French looks back at some of 2023’s best crime series from around the globe.
Ganglands (Braqueurs) series 2 (Netflix France) – Julian Leclercq and Hamid Hlioua’s trademark fast paced revenge drama brings back grizzled veteran heist merchant Sami Bouajila and banlieue diva sidekick Tracy Gotoas. The second series is filmed mostly in Brussels and features some great shoot outs and car chases.
Kin series 2 (RTÉ Ireland) – Peter McKenna and Ciaran Donnelly’s tough Dublin crime family drama returned for a second series of the somewhat depleted Kinsella family left from series 1. The show is loosely based on Ireland’s Kinahan Gang and the deadly Hutch-Kinahan family feuds in 2015 (and arguably still ongoing). Claire Dunne as the emergent family matriarch is terrific.
Top Boy series 5 (Netflix UK) – We were promised that the final season of Top Boy would leave no loose ends and writers didn’t disappoint. Across five seasons Sully (Kano) and Dushane (Ashley Walters) have ruled East London’s Summerhouse Estate and defended their turf against all comers. But all things come to an end. Man of the moment Barry Keoghan makes a splendid addition to the cast in the final season with one spectacular shoot out that sees more bullets fired than are actually fired in London in several years! No spoilers, but the final episode is all it was promised to be.
Scrublands (Stan/Nine Network Australia) – A brilliant adaptation of Chris Hammer’s novel set in the drought-ridden New South Wales hinterlands. A small-town priest (chillingly played by Kiwi actor Jay Ryan) kills five of his parishioners before being shot himself, leading to a journalist’s investigation into his motivations and the secrets of a small outback town.
Shetland series 8 (BBC Scotland) – the series continues with Douglas Henshall as DI Jimmy Pérez swapped out for Ahley Jensen as DI Ruth Calder in the new series. Fans will miss Perez but DI Calder’s arrival in Lerwick is working well with audiences. A Shetland girl’s sudden return home from big bad London sparks a chain of events that unsettle the islands.
Informa (Netflix Japan) – Japanese film and TV wunderkind Michihito Fujii has been blazing great guns through Netflix Japan. His Netflix movies, 2020’s A Family (about a struggling provincial Yakuza clan) and 2023’s Village (about a shocking environmental crime) are both brilliant. Informa follows a Japanese tabloid reporter tired of working simply as a celebrity scandals writer who accepts a new challenge when he is assigned to make contact with a former Yakuza informant.
Lupin series 3 – (Netflix France) – Omar Sy has nailed it consistently as Assane Diop in this modern-day adaptation of the Arséne Lupin stories filmed in and around Paris. And the show has come thick and fast with series 3 following on fast from 1 and 2.
Happy Valley series 3 (BBC UK) – this year’s major UK TV obsession set in Yorkshire’s Calder Valley and with Sergeant Catherine Cawood (the much-praised Sarah Lancashire) sparring with Tommy Lee Royce (a very different James Norton from usual). As with Top Boy, all loose ends resolved in this final series which had the nation on tenterhooks till the final scene.
Exterior Night (Esterno Notte) (RAI Italia) – The 1978 kidnapping and assassination of former Italian Prime Minister Aldo Moro by Red Brigades terrorists. Director Marco Bellocchio adapted his own movie into a TV series about the biggest Italian national trauma since the end of World War II. Bellocchio retains and expands his Rashomon style with the tragic kidnapping seen from the POVs of Moro’s fellow high-ranking Christian Democrats, the elderly and ailing Pope Paul VI, two Red Brigade terrorists, and Moro’s family.
The Gold – (BBC UK) – The BBC does true crime with this series (a second is coming apparently) about the 1983 Brink’s Mat Robbery at Heathrow Airport, the country’s biggest at the time and that still reverberates. The basic problem was they stole too much gold and it is still said that every piece of jewellery bought in Britain contains some of the Brink’s Mat heist haul. It all become too hot and handle and, it’s true!, thieves do fall out. Dominic Cooper excels while Hugh Bonneville eschews Downton and Paddington to be a hard-working London copper trying to sort the mess out.