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The Driver review

Episodes: 3

Premiered: 2014

Duration: 1 hr

Penned by Clocking Off and Shameless writer Danny Brocklehurst, The Driver is a twisting and turning three-part crime thriller set in Manchester. David Morrissey stars as Vince, a bored cab driver who decides to become a wheelman for a local organised criminal gang. His boredom soon turns to fear when he realises that he’s being drawn into a dark and murderous underworld.

Ian Hart (Boardwalk Empire, Michael Collins) and Colm Meaney (Layer Cake, The Commitments) provide support, alongside Cranford‘s Claudie Blakley and Coronation Street‘s Sacha Parkinson.

Here’s Stuart Barr’s episode-by-episode The Driver review.

The Driver episode 1 review

Former journalist and award-winning writer Danny Brocklehurst is well known for gritty TV dramas such as Clocking Off, Shameless, and Accused. BBC One’s new three part series The Driver continues to explore a contemporary urban milieu but from the genre confines of a crime thriller. Brocklehurst already has form in this area, having written three series of Stone – a detective drama for radio.

The first episode of The Driver instantly floored the accelerator, dropping the viewer into a nerve-wracking car chase through the streets of Manchester as Vince McKee (Morrissey) attempts to escape the cops. It’s an excellent action sequence, exciting and tightly edited, allowing series director Jamie Payne to show his skills as much as the protagonist, who demonstrates some breathtaking handbrake turns.

The story then jumps back a short period in time to show how the character came to be in this position. In fact McKee is a rather ordinary and frustrated man, clearly at an impasse in his life: he is seeking (and not receiving) treatment for depression, hitting the age when his children are leaving home, finding himself disappointed (and disappointing) in his marriage, frustrated by the grind of his job as a cab driver. He feels he receives little respect at home, and definitely doesn’t get it from the drunks who throw up in his cab on a regular basis. He is a man in the grip of a classic mid-life crisis.

The promise of excitement and money arrives in the unlikely form of Col (Ian Hart), a friend just released from prison for nefarious activities of the thieving kind. Lubricated by a few whiskeys, he lays out his frustrations with life. Col returns the favour by inviting him to a friendly card game. Here he meets ‘The Horse’ – a local gangster, played with sinister bonhomie by Colm Meaney. Horse offers McKee a ‘job’ as an on-call driver, something he initially rejects but then quickly accepts after a particularly depressing incident with a fare the following night. It is a decision that eventually brings us full circle to the chase that opened the episode.

This is a classic noir set up. An ordinary, slightly venal character pulled into a web of intrigue and danger by his own flaws – but the generic elements of the story do not make it any less enjoyable, and the Manchester locations are a stark contrast to the neon drenched L.A. of films like Collateral and Drive. As efficiently directed and written as it is (with a pleasing line of dark humour), the real draw of this establishing episode is Morrissey, who manages to make an unsympathetic and rather dull character into someone interesting and engaging.

This was a very promising opening episode, suggesting The Driver could join the BBC’s brilliant period gangster saga Peaky Blinders as the spearhead of a new wave of adult-oriented TV thrillers on British television.

Director: Jamie Payne

Writers: Danny Brocklehurst

Cast: David Morrissey, Claudie Blakley, Sacha Parkinson, Ian Hart, Colm Meaney

Did you tune in for The Driver episode 1? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below…

Read Stuart’s review of The Driver episode 2 here.

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The Driver episode 2 review

Still catching up on The Driver episode 2? Read Stuart’s review of episode 1 here.

Last week’s episode ended with Vince (Morrissey) in a very difficult situation. Dragged out on a job by feckless ‘mate’ Col – to the consternation of his wife Rosalind – Vince discovered the reality behind the shimmering glamour of a life of crime. Col’s job turns out to be very dirty indeed, a bloody assault ending with a semi-conscious victim being dumped in a pit and left to die.

While episode one was bookended by scenes from an exciting car chase, this middle episode eases back on the accelerator and fleshes out the characters. In particular, it gives a bigger role to Rosalind (Blakey). We also find out more about the McKee’s estranged son Tim, the elephant-in-the-room of the couple’s marriage.

Rosalind’s suspicions are aroused – and rightly so – by Col’s sudden appearance, and when Vince begins behaving erratically she instinctively knows that something is up. However, it is interesting that she does not jump to the conclusion that he is having an affair. This says a lot about the nature of their relationship, and helps to make Vince a more sympathetic character even as he becomes increasingly morally compromised. Suspicions are heightened further when Rosalind discovers bloodstained clothing in the laundry.

Creeping dread and growing paranoia provide thrills as Vince finds he is in over his head and his web of lies begins to crumble around him. As he gets entangled further with criminal boss Horse, he manages to attract the attention of some detectives who are interested in why a cabbie would dump a bloody body at A&E and leave without giving a statement. The stage is set for an exciting finale as Horse casually mentions that he needs Vince to race across the city for an upcoming job. How much longer can Vince keep his domestic and criminal lives separate, and will he be able to protect his family when Horse inevitably discovers his role in rescuing the rival gang member Col was supposed to ‘take care’ of?

Morrissey was particularly good in this episode, making it easy to feel concern for Vince and empathise with him. The scene in which he attempts to make contact with his estranged son, who we learn has joined some sort of commune or cult, is heartbreakingly sad. It would have been easy for Vince to be a stock character of the type Jason Statham sometimes plays, but Morrissey and writer Daniel Brocklehurst have made him a very vulnerable and relatable ‘common man’.

Some plot niggles are emerging: it’s really not clear how Vince has come by the impressive advanced driving skills shown in episode 1, and his ability to return in time for a restaurant reservation having popped out for a spot of GBH and body dumping outside city limits stretches credulity. However, at this stage in the drama these are easily ignored details. The Driver continues to intrigue.

Director: Jamie Payne

Writers: Danny Brocklehurst

Cast: David Morrissey, Claudie Blakley, Sacha Parkinson, Ian Hart, Colm Meaney

Did you tune in for The Driver episode 2? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below…

Read Stuart’s review of The Driver episode 3 here.

1 Comment

    I cannot express how much I absolutely loved The Driver, it was by far the best drama on TV of late and probably one of the best series I’ve seen in years, I really wish that it had gone beyond three episodes, I didn’t want it to end! The acting was magnificent, combining gripping drama with a humourous edge at times. David Morrissey was absolutely brilliant, and totally believable. There is a massive gap for this type of great TV.

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The Driver episode 3 review

Still catching up on The Driver episode 3? Read Stuart’s review of episode 2 here.

In the final episode of Danny Brocklehurst’s Manchester set neo-noir, taxi driver Vince’s poorly constructed web of lies comes crashing down.

A number of events occur in quick succession, bringing Vince to the edge of disaster. His wife has thrown him out of the house after discovering his illegal moonlighting. The victim of the botched gangland ‘hit’ he was dragged into has awoken from a coma. Best mate Col, recovering from the beating he received for botching the hit, is beginning to suspect that Vince may have helped their target escape. The icing on this unsavoury cake comes when a fellow cab driver refuses to provide him an alibi.

Vince’s desperate attempts to explain his actions to his wife are interrupted by the arrival of the police. Suddenly he is looking at ten years for attempted murder. He has seen how little Col gained from criminal loyalty and Vince hasn’t the stomach for prison. Still desperate to win back his wife and daughter and deal with the unresolved issue of their estranged son, some hard choices await him.

This final episode brings simmering ingredients to a quick boil as Vince and his family face the potential consequences of his actions. Vince can only avoid jail by turning informer and going undercover. If he agrees and then reneges on the arrangement, he could face life inside – but if he agrees and Horse and his associates are arrested, Vince’s family will be forced into witness protection. They will be unable to contact friends and family, including their son Tim, who is a member of some kind of commune or cult and refuses to speak to them.

Will Vince be able to go through with this? Will the family be able to accept losing all hope of a reconciliation with Tim?

While this final episode did ultimately answer these questions and once again allowed David Morrissey to play Vince’s anguish and inner pain to perfection in a demonstration of why he is one of the UK’s best actors, the episode did not quite reach fifth gear. The story could have stretched to four rather than three episodes easily, and the constricted running time meant that the climactic robbery scene came late and was over in a flash. While it may have been a little too much to expect an epic action sequence given the budget limitations of licence fee financed drama, the finale lacked the impact of the car chase that opened the first episode. Colm Meaney’s Horse was never given quite enough screen time to become a properly threatening character, and the welcome humour supplied by his henchmen in episode 1 never really resurfaced. More time could also have been used to flesh out the situation that led to Vince’s son leaving the family.

Despite these flaws, The Driver was still a welcome and interesting British television drama. It was a breath of fresh air – despite smelling of oil and gasoline – to see a crime drama from a perspective other than that of the well-worn detective hero.

Director: Jamie Payne

Writers: Danny Brocklehurst

Cast: David Morrissey, Claudie Blakley, Sacha Parkinson, Ian Hart, Colm Meaney

Did you tune in for The Driver episode 3? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below…

2 Comments

    Does anyone know where the hotel scene was set? Looks like the Diamond Lodge Hotel

    Enjoyable programme but confusing finale.

    Have some scenes been removed? Images here and on the programme’s homepage indicate we should have expected a club scene which looks like it got removed for timing and pace or to keep the programme to 1 hour…I felt there was a jump in the middle, like we missed some key information when vince arrives at the club!

    Does anyone else spot this?

    Cheers

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