REVIEW: Tin Star (Sky Atlantic)

You can blame Canada for giving us another must-see crime thriller. Laurie gives Tim Roth’s latest TV venture a look. 

Tim Roth explodes back onto our screens as the star of this intense drama that’s as dark and sweet as Canadian maple syrup. Set in the small town of Little Big Bear, this promising new Sky Atlantic venture takes us on a whirlwind tour of human emotion, serves up a refreshing take on the multiple personality plotline, and answers all our questions with other questions.

Tin Star is a dirty cocktail that’s one part revenge drama, two parts crime thriller with a little twist of British grit, and two cubes of ice to take away all that bruising. Roth plays Jim Worth, a British cop who inexplicably lands himself a job as chief of police in a small Canadian community that still tips its hat to strangers when they walk down the street. Worth is a man of two halves. One half is that of a family man and recovering alcoholic who promised his family a fresh start in a tranquil Canadian town, the other is a violent alter ego called Jack Devlin who only shows his face when Worth begins to drink. The opening of this remarkable show entices us with a shocking tragedy; Worth and his family are chased in their car by an unknown assailant, they stop to gas up in the middle of nowhere and a masked killer appears in front of them, holds up a gun, and an explosion of blood spatters onto the face of Worth’s daughter, played by Abigail Lawrie. What ensues is a desperate search for the truth, a family struggling to deal with the aftermath of losing a child, and a chief of police who is fighting to keep his loved ones safe while desperately trying to remain sober.

Roth’s ability to always unsettle us with his charismatic presence and weird energy is only heightened by his ability to jump from seemingly laidback apathy to all out rage in the space of time it takes to drink one shot of whiskey. The darkly comic elements of the show never feel out of place even after and during some of the most intense and violent scenes, and the disjointed music adds to our understanding that things are dire in this creepy little town. The more confusing elements of the show, such as Worth’s unfathomable jump from British cop to Canadian Chief or the unconvincing baby-faced murderer whose love affair with Worth’s daughter begins to resemble a psychopathic version of Twilight, are forgiven thanks to the brilliantly chosen cast, who include Genevieve O’Reilly, Christopher Heyerdahl and the always charismatic Christina Hendricks. The chemistry between the cast is unquestionable, and as always, Roth’s ability to play father to a young cast never falters, even when dealing with several murderous antagonists from every conceivable crack in the Canadian ice. The gang of thugs responsible for the death of Worth’s child are small in comparison to Louis Gagnon; the head of security at an evil oil corporation seeking to make money by whatever means necessary. He is a man who can best be described as a bald French Canadian Lurch, and one who doesn’t mind the odd bit of murder as long as it can be justified by company profits.   

Tin Star is explosive, bloody and psychological, and as both a violent revenge thriller and a heart-wrenching portrayal of a family wracked with grief, guilt and despair, it truly convinces. The scenic beauty and wide-angle shots of Canadian wilderness deliver a sense of bleakness and isolation, while the constant threat of animal attacks that are never realised lead us to question who the real animals are. The show is both a mix of beauty in the simple things, and simplicity in the ugly things, and after an explosive and delicious climax in which Worth truly gives in to his alter ego, and almost everybody ends up being shot, murdered, or drowned in a bucket of deer blood, we can’t help but wonder what bloody madness the second series will bring.

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