Still available to watch on 4OD, The Fear is a four-part drama series focusing on the life of a Brighton gangster in his twilight years who is struggling with the changing face of crime and the fact that he seems to be losing his memory.
The always compelling Peter Mullan plays Richie Beckett. A gangster turned local entrepreneur – Ritchie seems in control of his relatively new role in society, but he soon starts to turn to his old habits of drinking and violence. Flashbacks and hallucinations of a troubled past spur these actions on, and they are further heightened by the uncalculated antics of his two sons who have followed in his criminal footsteps.
Paul Nicholls plays the younger brother, Cal, and Harry Lloyd plays Matty, the older, more mature of the two. The brothers land themselves in deep trouble when a family of Albanian criminals move into the area and demand a rather big slice of the pie. Matters are made severely worse when Cal takes what he thinks is the initiative but is actually the piss, by promising the Albanians more than he can give using his father’s name and reputation as endorsement.
Already on a downward spiral, Richie catches wind of his sons’ antics and is forced to step in and try to straighten things out. The only problem is his symptoms of memory loss, confusion and hysteria are worsening which fuels the violent, more unpredictable side of his character.
For Mullan, this is a relatively familiar role and one which has many parallels to some of his previous characters such as Joseph in Tyrannosaur. So it’s no real surprise that he keeps us gripped with his menacing demeanour and violent outbursts, but where he stretches himself and impresses on an even higher level is when his character is in the latter stages of his dementia. This is helped by some inspired cinematography and editing to convey his feelings and confusion, and watching Mullan go from terrifying gangster to weeping senile is mesmerizing.
The Fear is a gangster series with a much appreciated added layer of human drama. With violence aplenty and some accomplished acting – especially from the lead – you’ll find yourself engaged through most of the four episodes. The only downfall to the series’ level of intrigue is the fact that after part way through the second instalment, you get the feeling there is no way the Beckett family can escape their predicament unscathed due to the sheer amount of trouble they have got themselves into. This lack of hope twinned with the fact the protagonist is not exactly likeable – an anti-hero at best, leads you to focus more on the individual qualities of The Fear rather than the combined sum of its parts.
To the series’ credit, when the criminal aspects of the narrative become stretched and a little less engaging, the emotional drama of Richie’s quickly deteriorating condition is completely absorbing. The fact that Mullan is able to somehow make you feel sorry for this ferocious, heartless criminal is astonishing.
We seem to be having a lasting period of high-quality drama on British terrestrial television so you would be excused for not catching every single programme. But if you’re looking for an involving drama with a relatively short run-time and nippy narrative, give The Fear your time.