Peaky Blinders, Season 1 (2014)
Reviewer: Charity Bishop
Gangsters have always fascinated the public. The 1920's fits them like a glove. Dark alleys, primitive automobiles, pretty blondes, and machine guns.
Just after the Great War, Birmingham is a hotbed of activity. Thomas Shelby (Cillian Murphy) has returned with a few scars, bad dreams, and war memories, to lead his gang -- the Peaky Blinders, in profiting from illegal betting and trade on the black market. Looked down on by the Italian community for their "gypsy" roots, the Peaky Blinders make a mistake in appropriating a consignment of guns stolen from a local arms factory. Winston Churchill sends the hard-nosed Inspector Campbell (Sam Neil) to ensure its return. He places an anti-Irish undercover operative, Grace (Annabelle Wallis), into the heart of Peaky territory and waits.
Rather than return the guns as his Aunt Polly (Helen McCrory) encourages him to do, Tom decides to play a far more dangerous game... with repercussions he cannot imagine. He must also deal with his sister's impregnation by a local communist and his plans to profit from the races.
On a purely objective level, Peaky Blinders is an excellent gangster drama, full of rich, interesting, and nuanced characters. The gradual development of events eventually pays off in a cliffhanger, while the romance plays quietly in the background, sucking you into it even as you learn to care about these black-hearted devils. It has an excellent cast and tight writing. It's hard to stop watching once you get started. The modern music, far from being intrusive, ads a jaunty, almost sarcastic air to significant moments, and the costuming design, cinematography, and attention to detail is astounding. Booze, blackmail, racketeering, and "protecting" people for a price, it's all here, in glorious color -- along with a heavy helping of violence, sensuality, profanity, and gore.
Five graphic sex scenes (movement, partial nudity); we see a man's naked backside; a car passes prostitutes plying their trade; a man tries to rape a woman (shoves her face-down on a table, and lifts her skirt); another man intervenes and says the woman is a "dirty whore with the clap"; a man pays for a woman, then rapes her (we see her crying, and him violently accosting her).
F-words. S-words. Christ/Jesus' name taken in vain. One G--d---n. Crude references to certain parts of the body.
People are shot in the head, with gory results; flashbacks of war scenes; graphic stabbings; a man is beaten to death with a spittoon, his face a mangled, gruesome mess; men have their faces sliced up with razors.
Some of the gangsters profess faith in God.