Preview of the pilot episode: Tonight, the Sky Original “Gangs of London” by cult director Gareth Evans (“The Raid”) celebrates its German TV premiere in feature length. The first episode already shows that the dark mafia series does not take prisoners.
They are all looking for their own “Game of Thrones”. The gap that the fantasy epic left behind last year wants to continue to be filled. It quickly becomes clear that “Gangs of London”, a co-production between Sky Studios and HBO Cinemax, wants to hit a similar notch conceptually. “Gangs of London” also begins with the death of a high-ranking man. The respected gangster boss Finn Wallace was shot. His hot-headed son Sean now desperately tries to preserve the patriarch’s legacy and opens the hunt for the murderers. Meanwhile, the various clans and families of the London underworld position themselves to reach for rule.
Speaking of “Game of Thrones”: Apart from the similar constellation of inciting powerful families against each other, the pilot of “Gangs of London”, which is over 90 minutes long, already shows that the main characters are not treated squeamishly. Two well-known faces of HBO fantasy are also immersed in the London gangster world. David Bradley is there again, for example, again as a grumpy older man. Meanwhile, Catelyn Stark actress Michelle Fairley again embodies a matriarch, the Wallace widow, who encourages her son to campaign for revenge. Now that this is likely to end badly, Game of Thrones fan is already known.
After the first episode, it is difficult to judge what the thriller series will do with the mafia genre. First of all, there are a lot of narrative clichés to be found. Men in questionable positions of power who absolutely must enforce their own principles. Female figures who stand in the background without any involvement and who must not take a face. Ominous machinations in the underground, culminating in sudden outbreaks of violence. Routinely implemented, yes, but not particularly original. On the other hand, what captivates the series from the very beginning is the power divide from top to bottom, which is also carried out spatially. The mighty make their plans upstairs in an elegant atmosphere, while the little people, the penniless gangsters, do the dirty work for them and fight their fights in the ragged, underground slaughterhouse.
Brutal action scenes
Speaking of slaughterhouse! Anyone who has ever seen a film by director and series creator Gareth Evans knows that his works are far from being released for young people. In his Indonesian action films “The Raid” and “The Raid 2” the cruel fist fights were staged with such a choreographic virtuosity that the mouth was often left open. At Netflix, Evans followed suit in his occult horror film “Apostle” in 2018. And also in “Gangs of London” he delivers his usual hardness to his fans.
Around the middle of the first episode there is a bar brawl that is so painful to watch that you want to squirm on the couch. Here bottles are smashed into mouths, bones broken, faces rubbed against the wall. The camera follows body movements (in the usual Evans manner). The fights do not yet achieve the light, dancing quality of “The Raid” action scenes, at least in this opening sequence. Everything is sluggish, massive, but no less difficult to bear. If the gangsters attack each other here (later even the butcher hatchet is unpacked in the pilot episode), it is a hair-raising brutal spectacle. In a positive sense, Evans delivers insane show values for an adult. You can’t dispute that.
A new hit for Sky?
How this visual excess is compatible with current discourses on worldwide mafia machinations will probably only become clear in the coming hours of the nine-part first season. After the opening of “Gangs of London”, one has to at least be cautious about the concern that Gareth Evans will plunge somewhat blindly into the fatalism and superficial cruelty of this gloomy world, instead of taking the political dimension of his gangster entanglements seriously, something like that yes networked every day around the world. In any case, “Gangs of London” should also cause a stir in the German-speaking area after the success in England. A second season for the Sky series has already been announced.
From July 23, “Gangs of London” will run twice every Thursday on 9.15 p.m. on Sky Atlantic HD. Either in German or in the original. The entire season is available for streaming from the same day via Sky Ticket, Sky Go and Sky Q.
- gangsoflondon2: obs / Sky Germany / Photo: ©  Sky UK Limited