fri 27/04/2018

13 Commandments, Channel 4 review - murder most Flemish | reviews, news & interviews

13 Commandments, Channel 4 review - murder most Flemish

13 Commandments, Channel 4 review - murder most Flemish

Belgian crime drama from Walter Presents borrows the plot of 'Seven'

Unlucky for some? '13 Commandments'

To Belgium for the latest continental instalment of murder really rather unpleasant. 13 Commandments, yet another crime drama brought to Channel 4 under the auspices of Walter Presents, began with the grizzliest manner imaginable. A man arrived at an airport, and was greeted reverentially by a driver who ferried him to a terraced house in a run-down street. There two thugs delivered a young woman into his possession. He drove her off to an abandoned house, tied her up, donned gloves and slit her throat. You rather hoped the camera would not show the last detail, but no, it panned just low enough to be unsparing.

The first episode – the whole series is now available on All4 – travelled down the well-trodden path in which the police assume they’re dealing with one sort of crime only to discover the story will take them in quiet a different direction. In this case everyone – the old lag Peter Devriendt (Dirk van Dijck), his new partner Vicky Degraeve (Marie Vinck, pictured below), and a pair of old-school clowns called Simon Roelandts (Bert Haelvoet) and Marnix Santermans (Tom Ternest) – all reached a consensus that this was an honour killing. As a theory it fits in with the mood out there in society: Islamophobic anxiety is stoked by a white-suited figure seen spouting nasty right-wing stuff on the television. But by the end of the episode the man they brought in for questioning, and then released for lack of evidence, was found torched but alive, with the words “Thou shalt have no other god but me” scrawled in Flemish on the wall next to his body.13 commandments“That’s the first of the Ten Commandments,” noted Marnix, whose moustache and gut mark him out as a man of limited intelligence. “Sure,” said his partner Simon witheringly, “and you’re Brad Pitt in Seven.” On the principle that there are only seven plotlines, the one in which the killer works his way through the rules Moses brought down from the mountain is always going to come up now and then. So Seven had to be namechecked just so everyone knew they knew. (No one mentioned Kevin Spacey.) The number of commandments may turn out to match the number of corpses, but it would be unwise to ignore that title.

13 Commandments isn’t afraid to have fun. The precinct boss is a blonde narcissist who fusses about what she wears before appearing in front of the camera, while sexist Simon and thick Marnix are laid on for light relief. “He’ll need a lot of burn cream,” says Simon when the charred survivor is loaded into the ambulance. But there aren’t a lot of laughs in Peter and Vicky. He is a divorcee with a spendthrift layabout for a daughter who extracts money out of him as if turning on a faucet. She has a homemade trapeze on which she tries to rebalance her traumatised mind, visited by instrusive memories of a car crash which left her with a scar up the length of her spine and put her mother in a coma.

What would Agatha Christie’s Belgian detective make of it all? It’s well written by a team led by Rita Bossaer, Dirk Nielandt and Lieven Scheerlinck, and directed with gloomy flair by Maarten Moerkerke. The tourist board won’t like it. Only those with a strong stomach should enter this Fleming hell.

@JasperRees

Add comment

Subscribe to theartsdesk.com

Thank you for continuing to read our work on theartsdesk.com. For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 10,000 pieces, we're asking for £3.95 per month or £30 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take an annual subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a theartsdesk.com gift subscription?

newsletter

Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters