harrigan_new_posterFans of the television series I’m Alan Partridge will recall a plethora of ideas the failing presenter pitches to the commissioning editor of the BBC. One of which was ‘Swallow ‘ a regional detective series of a maverick, hard-nosed law enforcer who “isn’t afraid to break the law if he thinks it’s necessary”. Well, it seems that Vince Woods’ cop thriller Harrigan is a film not too dissimilar to the aforementioned idea, and one that Alan himself would be proud to have devised.

Set in a bitter winter of 1974 in the North of England, we follow Detective Sergeant Barry Harrigan (Stephen Tompkinson), an uncompromising officer of the law, who returns to his homeland following an unsavoury stint in Asia. Riddled with crime and political unrest, the community is in turmoil, and Harrigan – on the brink of retirement – sets out to straighten this town up once and for all, and restore order to an otherwise bleak and treacherous place to live.

Playing out as a homage to cop dramas of old, Harrigan does a fine job in depicting this oppressive time in British history, where a crippling miners strike and immense unemployment rates result in just three day working weeks. The atmosphere Woods has created is dark and melancholic, and you never once question the 70s setting. Not only is this film set in the said decade, but it looks like it was filmed then too, which gives this picture a touch of authenticity. Nonetheless at times the violence and disruption does seem somewhat overstated. It’s the North of England after all, not Baghdad.

Sadly Arthur McKenzie’s unsubtle script does not match the ambiance, with some terribly cliched dialogue that is harmful to the viewer’s enjoyment of the picture. Far too many lines are said twice for dramatic effect, in an all too serious manner. How anyone can say lines similar to, “Now we know Harrigan, now we know…” before looking hazily into the distance, without their tongue being firmly in their cheek is beyond me. Nonetheless, this film is so heavily reliant on the lead performance and fortunately Tompkinson excels. Not only does he have a well crafted character to work with, but he brings the perfect amount of stern brutality to the role, while remaining likeable and vulnerable throughout. At times he appears infallible and hard as nails, and at other points he is calm and pensive, as his age and pending retirement comes into play.

Though certainly a captivating piece of cinema – with a real classic British drama feel about it – Harrigan can be accused of being far too conventional and obvious in points, with a narrative that leaves a lot to be desired (not to mention the superfluous romantic plot with Gillian Kearney). To justify its theatrical release you feel it needs something more about it, and it’s somewhat surprising that this wasn’t written to be a TV drama series. A big screen release won’t guarantee nearly as many viewers as this deserves, and given the promise on show from debut director Woods, it’s a shame this is the case. Somebody needs to call the commissioning editor from the BBC – because having told Alan Partridge there’s far too many of these regional detective series, it seems that perhaps one more won’t do any harm after all.