Thursday 18 January 2018

Assassins Review: 'If ever a life demonstrated the stupidity of running with organised crime, this one did'

Assassins: Ireland's Contract Killers started on TV3 on Wednesday.
Assassins: Ireland's Contract Killers started on TV3 on Wednesday.
Assassins: Ireland's Contract Killers started on TV3 on Wednesday.
Darragh McManus

Darragh McManus

Assassins: Ireland’s Contract Killers, which began on TV3 tonight, is the latest “true crime” show to hit our screens. The genre shows no signs of – ahem – dying off any time soon, and little wonder: this stuff is unfeasibly popular with the public.

I suppose it’s easy to be sneery and dismissive of true crime documentaries (and it’s not really my cup of tea personally). But I sometimes feel that a lot of it is just pompous gas-bagging.

“Ooh, look at these vulgar people, actually giving the viewers what they want! Don’t they know what’s good for them! This muck is exploitative and tacky!”

Et cetera, et cetera. The charge of exploitation doesn’t hold true for true crime any more than any documentary on any subject – they can all be accused of using painful subjects and personal pain for their own ends.

Besides, once you ditch your preconceptions and watch the shows, they tend to treat victims of crime with respect and tact. Meanwhile they lay into the criminal fraternity with no punches pulled, but so what? Isn’t that a good thing? Only the most intellectually-contortionist moral relativist would argue against.

And while true crime TV doesn’t necessarily fulfil a public service, as such, it does address serious matters, which are actually happening, and happening now, and affect real people’s lives. I don’t see a whole lot wrong with that.

Assassins: Ireland's Contract Killers started on TV3 on Wednesday.
Assassins: Ireland's Contract Killers started on TV3 on Wednesday.

Anyway, now dismounting my soapbox and reviewing the show at hand, Assassins takes an angled approach to its subject, in that the co-hosts – investigative journalist Donal MacIntyre and Scottish criminologist Prof David Wilson – use case studies to explore what they describe as the “four types of hitman: novices, journeymen, dilettantes and masters”.

So, tonight, we had Dublin yahoo Paddy “The Whack” Doyle, who began as a novice (naturally) but graduated to a journeyman. Not, David pointed out, a master, as proven by Doyle’s double-hit in 2005 during a Dublin gang-war: real masters, he said, don’t kill in their home towns. They’re international, flying in to a city, carrying out the hit and leaving.

But Doyle kept being lured back to Dublin, where it all began with his birth in 1980 in Dorset St. His was the depressingly predictable story of your typical gun-for-hire: dragged up in a rough area, involved in crime from a young age, a violent and ambitious personality – with more than a hint of sociopathy.

By the late 1990s, when the notorious Drimnagh/Crumlin feud kicked off, Doyle was a “footsoldier” for Fat Freddie Thompson. He’s known to have carried out at least three contract killings in Dublin, and worked for a crime gang in Liverpool, before migrating to the Costa del Sol, where he hooked up with the Kinahan crowd.

And where he died: killed by gunmen in 2008 – the biter getting bit. Big loss to society, no doubt.

Assassins was fine, as these things go, full of interesting facts – amazingly, some five percent of murders in Ireland are by paid hitmen, one of the highest rates in the developed world – and nicely shot, although it didn’t need the hokey set-ups, such as Donal walking the canal and pretending to ring David. A good, informative supporting cast too, including journo Nicola Tallant and former Garda Alan Bailey and Brian Sherry.

Paddy Doyle, David said at one point, wanted the world to know his “brand”. Well, now we do: you’ll always be infamous, you big feckin’ eejit, and you’ll always be dead at aged just 28. If ever a life demonstrated the pointlessness and stupidity of running with organised crime, this one did.

Online Editors

Promoted Links

Entertainment Newsletter

Going out? Staying in? From great gigs to film reviews and listings, entertainment has you covered.

Promoted Links

Editors Choice

Also in Entertainment