bill bodkin reviews the bbc america crime drama…
Plot: Detective Kevin “Corky” Corcoran (Tom Weston-Jones) is a rough and tumble “copper” patrolling the streets of the Five Points section of New York City in the 1860s. He and his unorthodox allies made up of cops, prostitutes and an African-American coroner, must take on the crimes that abound throughout the city — including the mysterious and brutal murder of a child prostitute.
Since Copper takes place in New York’s historic Five Points section (also the setting for Scorsese’s Gangs of New York), we will look at “five points” that we took away from the debut episode.
1. This was a great table setting episode, not the best singular episode.
If you look at this episode in a vacuum as a stand alone episode it doesn’t bowl you over, but as the introduction to the series — it’s awesome. In one episode we’re left with so many questions — whether it be about Corcoran’s family (his wife who supposedly bailed on him to his deceased daughter) to the conspiracy and cover-up revolving around the murder of a child prostitute and one of the richest men from one of the richest families in New York. All the questions leave you salivating for more because they are presented in such engrossing ways, thus making this premiere episode absolutely tantalizing.
2. This is not your normal crime drama
Nothing’s pretty or slick about Copper. This is evidenced in the opening sequence when Corcoran shoots a bank robber dead then yells “Freeze and drop your weapons!” Usually it’s the other way around, right? Well, this is the world of Copper. It’s shoot first, ask questions later, punch you in the face with brass knuckles, sleep with prostitutes and solve crimes. It’s a breather of fresh air to the everyday crime drama and procedurals we’re used to.
3. A captivating and curious leading man
Copper wouldn’t work if Tom Weston-Jones wasn’t the lead actor. He is absolutely believable a street-hardened bad ass detective. When he gets in scrapes and shoot-outs it’s totally legit. It’s as if he’s been ripped out of the time period, not some thesp plopped onto a soundstage (I’m looking at you AMC’s Hell on Wheels). What else is fascinating about Weston-Jones is that he’s able to balance his bareknuckle persona with a sense of sorrow and heart. He’s got a lot of pain that he’s working through, which we’ll discover the roots of as the season continues and you want to know why he has such an attachment to the madame of a house of ill-repute played by Franke Potente.
4. Like an good BBC series, Copper has a tremendous supporting cast.
Three actors stand out the most here — Kevin Ryan, Kiara Glasco and Ato Essandoh. Ryan, plays Corky’s righthand man, Detective Francis Maguire. What’s interesting about Maguire is that he’s heartfelt and hyper-defensive when it comes to Corky and his shrouded past, but is half-cocked and ready to explode at anyone else. His loyalty and volatility are explosive combination that I think will lead this character to save his boss’ bacon at least once this season — and may also cost him his life.
Kiara Glasco is marvelous as the child prostitute that Corcoran is desperately trying to protect. Glasco plays the character much older than she truly is — hardened and jaded by the world that has given up on her and forced her into the seedy society which she has fallen into. The most jarring part of her performance is when she, acting as a pint-sized Angelina Jolie-looking seductress, offers to pleasure Corcoran after he shows her kindness by giving her some food. The offer not only stuns the copper but the audience as well. Glasco delivers the line so believably which actually makes the line even more shocking.
Ato Essandoh is awesome as the African-American doctor/coroner, Doctor Matthew Freeman. Essandoh, who some might remember as Titembe Natalie Portman’s adopted brother in Garden State, takes the classic crime drama role of the serious and studious coroner, and turns it on his ear. Due to the color of his skin, he must live in fear and fly under the radar, denying the world from seeing his forensic brilliance. This causes him to an a reluctant and exasperated ally of our hero. I loved all his scenes and can’t wait to see where they take his character.
5. Anytime Franka Potente is around — it’s a good thing.
I didn’t recognize her at first, due to her jet black hair, but when my wife pointed it out, I knew that Copper was going to a special series. Potente is such a fantastic actress — bringing humanity, depth and a subtle sense of humor with her wherever she goes whether be it the Bourne films, Blow or the film we first fell in love with, Run Lola Run. Her role as the madame with a heart of gold that our hero seems to be smitten with, is no doubt going to be an important one and I can’t wait to see where this tremendous actress will take it. Her presence in this role assure me that there will be a strong female presence that will balance the red blooded and bare knuckle hypermasculine part of the series. And to be a bit immature, it doesn’t hurt that Ms. Potente is also very easy on the eyes, so that only adds to when she’s onscreen.
All Photos Credit: BBC America