Friday 17 August 2018

Acceptable Risk review: 'RTE drama is strictly run-of-the-mill stuff - reasonably watchable but not grippingly so'

Three star rating

Acceptable Risk, RTE One
Acceptable Risk, RTE One

Pat Stacey

RTE’s much-hyped new six-part drama, Acceptable Risk, is a co-production with Canadian company Facet4 and is filmed in Montreal and Dublin.

Such is its glossy, machine-tooled blandness, however, that it could be set in Montreal and London, Montreal and Berlin, Montreal and Paris, or indeed in any two modern cities anywhere in the western world with no appreciable difference in tone, style or content.

Written by the seasoned Ron Hutchinson, whose long list of credits includes highs such as HBO’s The Tuskegee Airmen (1995) and lows like the disastrous 1996 film of The Island of Dr Moreau – though the blame for that turkey rested squarely with its eccentric and self-indulgent star Marlon Brando’s destructive behaviour – it’s a one-size-fits-all conspiracy thriller aimed very much at the broad international market.

There’s nothing wrong with that. Irish TV drama could always do with being a bit more outward-looking anyway, while co-productions, which provide a vital injection of lifeblood for comparatively small broadcasters like RTE, are the way forward.

The problem with Acceptable Risk is that it’s strictly run-of-the-mill stuff: reasonably watchable but not grippingly so.

There’s nothing much to make it stand out from a crowded field of murder mysteries and conspiracy thrillers set in the murky world of corporate skulduggery.

Hutchinson’s script, at least in last night’s opener, is efficient rather than compelling, while director Kenny Glenaan, who helmed RTE’s risible Charlie Haughey biopic in 2015, gives the whole thing a slick but soulless sheen.

Sarah Manning (Elaine Cassidy) is distraught when her Canadian husband Lee (Paul Popowich), a high-flying executive with Dublin-based global pharma giant Gumbiner-Fischer, is shot in the back of the head and dumped on the street while on a business trip to Montreal.

To paraphrase Oscar Wilde, to lose one husband may be regarded as unfortunate; to lose two looks like dirty tricks. Sarah’s first hubby, and the father of her two children, seemingly drowned after falling into a canal while drunk. As it happens, he also worked for Gumbiner-Fischer.

Come to that, Sarah herself used to work for the company and has just turned down the chance to return to her job when world-weary cop Det Sgt Emer Byrne (Angeline Ball) turns up at the door of her swanky home (which, I read somewhere the other day, is Def Leppard guitarist Rick Savage’s Wicklow pad) to break the bad news from Montreal.

Things take a decidedly sinister turn when the Montreal cops discover a handgun made from polycarbonate, which would be undetectable to airport scanners, in Lee’s hotel room. What was a glorified salesman doing packing a piece?

Meanwhile, some bloke with a man-bun, who DS Byrne later recognises as a lowly handbag-snatcher, breaks into Sarah’s house. When Sarah’s sister (Lisa Dwyer Hogg) goes to the airport to pick up Lee’s car, she catches Man-Bun Guy rooting around the underbody. He was obviously looking for the sophisticated tracking device someone had put there.

But who? Could it be Hans Werner Hoffman (Morten Suurballe from The Killing), the suave but slightly sinister head of Gumbiner-Fischer, or perhaps his head of security Barry Lehane (Risteard Cooper), an ex-cop who spits out his lines as though he spends his entire leisure time reading hardboiled crime novels. And could Lee’s murder be linked to the death of Sarah’s first spouse?

The more she tries to dig into Dead Hubby No 2’s past, the more she realises he doesn’t appear to have a past to dig into. No old family photos. No...

“He’s the Invisible Man,” she tells her sister, confiding that she actually knows nothing about his life before they met, let alone what he got up to on his frequent business trips.

Given they’d been married for 18 months, you’d imagine she might have figured this out before he ended up on a Montreal street with a bullet hole in the back of his head.

Acceptable Risk is well-made in a highly polished, antiseptic kind of way, but so far its intrigues aren’t all that intriguing and the whiff of cliche hangs heavy.

AVAILABLE ON THE RTE PLAYER

Herald

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