I first saw it in the Channel 4 groundbreaker Queer As Folk, penned by Doctor Who’s Russell T Davies. Gillen played Stuart Alan Jones; out, proud and sexually uninhibited, Caligula could’ve learned a thing or two from him.
Moving on a few years and it’s on show again in, of all places, acclaimed US drama The Wire.
This time, the Irish-born actor is Tommy Carcetti, an ambitious city councilman in Baltimore. Carcetti’s got a wife and he’s got kids, but he’s just gotta have it so down go the trousers and pop! go by eyes.
To the latest unveiling and in BBC2 drama Freefall, Aiden Gillen played City worker Gus. Purely motivated by the riches of his job, he gets ‘excited’ whenever the really big bucks come in (let’s just say that he takes the matter in hand and leave it at that).
Gus has a – mainly sexual – relationship of sorts with colleague Anna, played by former Bond girl Rosamund Pike (on the whole, sadly wasted). Against the backdrop of London’s City skyline, they go at it like rabbits and I found myself wondering whether Aiden Gillen’s contract stipulates that he must perform whenever he performs… not that I mind in the slightest. Oh-so-easy on the eye, that man.
Set in London, Freefall explored the effects of the economic downturn on the lives of a selection of people. Gus is a big honcho for an investment bank (cue scenes of traders on the phone spouting barely comprehensible market-ese. They may as well have been speaking Klingon). Then there’s wideboy Dave, the dodgy mortgage salesman (a breathtakingly brilliant performance by Dominic Cooper). Unscrupulous deal closed – he gets in his Audi and, in a scene that really reminded me of Tom Cruise in Jerry Maguire, he tries to sing along to Dreams by Gabrielle… but he only knows the one line: dreams can come true. In Jerry Maguire, the song our hero can’t sing is Bitch by The Rolling Stones, in case you’re wondering.
Our Dave doesn’t give a Castlemaine XXXX for the poor sods he seduces into crippling debt – he counts the commission and spends it like Beckham. New car? Loadsamoney! New pad? Loadsamoney! New bling? Loadsamoney! Nubile women? Loadsamoney! "You’re the king of your castle bayyyyybe!" cooed Dave’s beautician girlfriend Sam (played by Girls Aloud’s Sarah Harding) after seeing his swanky property (not a euphemism). The coterie of bimbos he squanders his hormones on doesn’t go down too well with her so she dumps him.
OK, Ms Harding was only in three scenes with a total of less than six minutes airtime, but I recognised the girl she was playing – I’ve seen that type papped outside Mayfair nightclubs with Premier League footballers.
However, the duo that truly gave Freefall its heart were Joseph Mawle as Jim and Anna Maxwell Martin (Bleak House) as Mandy. A decent married man with two kids, Jim let old school pal Dave sucker him into a life he couldn’t afford. Then again, Dave didn’t hesitate to plunge the knife in and twist it. What an Alan B’stard.
You can guess what happened to them all when the credit crunch bit. Borrowing heavily (heh! See what I did there?) from real life, there was a suicide and a repossession – the only fate I got wrong was Dave’s. When the nuclear bomb drops, all that will be left are cockroaches, Keef Richards and lousy salespeople.
I had problems with Freefall – the characters were a tad clichéd and it was so predictable in places, even yer average WAG could see what was coming next. However, said quibbles didn’t detract from the searing performances on display. I was sold.
Today I am mostly lovin’ – High Noon in Manchester with a Cockney publican and an Irish gangster facing off? It can only be Jimmy McGovern’s The Street. If he wrote about flushing the loo, I’d watch because for me, the man can do no wrong. Bob Hoskins was the star turn and he was wonderful as London geezer Paddy, a man who just wanted to do the right thing. But as good as he was, Liam Cunningham stole the show as hardman Tommy Miller – he played the character with malevolence seeping from every pore. Loved Timothy Spall’s cameo too – it’s been a great week for British drama.
Today I am mostly hatin’ – Looked up something on some site somewhere and saw a massive spoiler for House. Grrrrrr! The annoying thing is that what I was originally looking for had nothing to do with House. Sometimes, the internet’s a bitch.
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