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Hard Sun review: bonkers, bloody, the end is nigh

PUBLISHED: 11:52 09 January 2018 | UPDATED: 11:52 09 January 2018

DI Elaine Renko (Agyness Deyn) flees from her burning house after suffering a violent attack (C) Euston Films

DI Elaine Renko (Agyness Deyn) flees from her burning house after suffering a violent attack (C) Euston Films

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Hard Sun has it all - an apocalyptic plot, two maverick cops hiding secret sorrows, hackers, hacktivists, affairs, family blow-ups (literally), violence and a hotel room with an en suite Crime Scene Lair

The BBC has clearly decided that Saturday night is all right for fighting – within minutes of Hard Sun beginning, and just after we learned the world is facing an “extinction level event”, there was a vicious scene involving knives, petrol, flames and a kettle, a bit like a scout camp-out but with less toasted marshmallows.

Following in the footsteps of Gunpowder and McMafia, it seems that the BBC have embraced a Game of Thrones level of violence in the name of light entertainment and I, for one, am all for it – there’s nothing more invigorating than watching a barney that ends with someone setting the house on fire: it’s like Christmas all over again.

Both leads in this drama from Neil Cross, who brought us Luther are here to give Idris Elba a run for his money as TV’s most maverick of maverick cops.

Jim Sturgess plays DCI Bad Cop (Charlie Hicks) who is partial to stealing cash from crime scenes, is married and expecting a second child but also sleeping with his dead former partner’s wife, enjoys waking up gangsters in the middle of the night with a shotgun and has a questionable London accent which brings to mind Danny Dyer’s slightly-posher telephone voice.

His new sidekick – who tells him she’s not trying to replace his old partner, to which he obviously tells her that she never could – is DI Tortured Past (DI Elaine Renko), played by Agyness Deyn, who was one of the aforementioned assailants in that opening sequence of extreme violence. Having been slashed and almost burned to death, eight months later she’s living in a hotel and trying to find her way in a new office full of male police officers who carp on about the importance of ‘banter’ (a word which has been hijacked by people who use it to excuse idiocy).

Sent to an apparent suicide, where a lonely computer geek with Asperger’s (CLICHÉ KLAXON) has skewered himself on a tree below the tower block where he kept himself to himself, Renko immediately realises there’s more to his death than meets the eye, much to the annoyance of her new colleagues who were clearly hoping to get back to the office as quickly as possible for more top notch bants rather than having the tiresome business of having to investigate a crime.

On the way back from the tower block – where we viewers are aware that shady hacker Sunny (irony) Ramachandran has already removed a piece of evidence from the corpse, a memory stick which we realise is linked to that very first scene about the apocalypse, because we have been paying attention – Hicks asks Renko to drop him off at a house where he needs to conduct some business. The business involves giving his ex-partner’s widow a bundle of cash he nicked during an armed robbery THAT HE COMMITTED and then ‘comforting’ her, horizontally, upstairs.

Renko, meanwhile, has managed to find a hotel with the modern day equivalent of a priest hole, a removable polystyrene ceiling tile which offers access to her Crime Scene Lair, an attic plastered with photographs and post-it notes (CLICHÉ KLAXON) which reveal she knows far more about Hicks than he realises (LINE OF DUTY KLAXON). Just in case the plastered crime mood board doesn’t reveal this to it, we hear Renko documenting her thoughts into her phone, like no one on a secret assignment would do, ever.

Meanwhile, Ramachandran is stalking around looking haunted, quite literally bearing the weight of the world on his shoulders. He makes a call, during which he is forced to say the kind of lines that The League of Gentleman’s Legz Akimbo youth drama group would attribute to a Hackney Hacker (“I’m gonna make you well moneyed, ey” etc) and heads off to meet a buyer for the memory stick in a car park, followed by Renko and Hicks.

The intrepid officers intercept the deal and are taking both seller and buyer back to the cop shop when all hell breaks loose – comparatively speaking, in a show about the apocalypse – shots ring out, both prisoners are killed and it looks like Renko and Hicks are next. There followed a genuinely excellent scene where it dawned on the pair that the memory stick they’d intercepted probably contained some fairly contentious information and the spooks hemming them in on a residential London street were going to kill them for it.

As Hicks systematically smashed car windows, setting off alarms and raising their sleeping owners to witness what was happening, giving the pair time to escape as the MI5 spooks faltered, not wishing to gun them down in front of a street full of angry London types brandishing their car insurance details.

On one of those bleak Thames riverside beaches, Hicks and Renko opened Pandora’s Box and discovered the fate of the world and in turn, realised their own fate – Hicks called his wife, only for the phone to be answered by super spook Grace Morrigan (Nikki Amuka-Bird) who informed him he could have his family back in return for the USB stick.

Hicks asked Renko for the stick, she refused, pointing out it would be the end of them both and another fight broke out, this one involving truncheons, knuckle dusters and flying insults along with the fists. Renko came out on top, and to be fair, her victory sums up Deyn’s performance, which is compelling.

But really, are there any winners when we’re all about to fry? Hard Sun is quite bonkers, really, with more happening in an hour than happens in entire series. Did Hicks kill his colleague? Is Cross REALLY going to attribute Renko’s toughness to the fact she was raped as a young woman (CLICHÉ KLAXON)? What would happen if everyone found out that total annihilation was just five years away? Did you guess that Renko’s attacker was her son? Did David Bowie know about this all along? Why does everything look as if it’s filmed underwater in a dirty fish tank? Why can I never find a hotel with a secret Crime Scene Lair? I’m off to binge watch the series for all the answers.

* The entire series of Hard Sun is now available on BBC iPlayer. Hard Sun is on BBC1 on Saturday nights at 9.35pm.

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