Sally Mais/Tannadice Pictures/Paramount
In the 1980s, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher declared, “There is no such thing as society.” Although this was simply his hyperbolic way of saying that people should not count on government support, his words were interpreted quite differently: they fueled the popular perception that in Hypercapitalist Britain that Thatcher strove to create, everyone was on their own path. own.
This idea forms the backdrop to Gold, an enjoyable new series made (with the BBC) for the streaming service Paramount+. It is based on a real-life 1983 gold heist, in which thieves broke into a warehouse and made off with three tons of gold bars. But this six-part series is not the story of a heist. This is Aftermath, a piquant saga propelled by a terrific cast, well-drawn characters, and a sly, piquant take on ’80s go-go.
Although Gold begins with theft, its creator, Neil Forsyth, is more interested in the colorful outlaws who deal with the gold once stolen. They are led by a vain rector, Kenneth Noye, played with cheeky charisma by the great young actor Jack Lowden, whom you will know from Slow horses. Noye brings in his usual partner in crime, a shady gold broker, played by Tom Cullen. Then he hires a stylish, upwardly mobile lawyer, played by Dominic Cooper.
Even as we watch this crew carry out their plans, we follow their pursuit by a police task force. It is led by Brian Boyce, a straight and ironic chief inspector, played with humor by Hugh Bonneville, who seems liberated from no longer being the dense Earl of the film. Downton Abbey. Boyce’s most successful officer, Nicki Jennings (nicely played by Charlotte Spencer) is the extremely honest daughter of a south London criminal. Naturally, she’s underestimated at first because it’s the 80s and she’s a woman.
Scammers are devising elaborate ways to turn gold into silver, a process that involves melted bullion, fake documents from Sierra Leone, real Swiss bank accounts and real estate investments along the Thames that are changing the face of London. Meanwhile, the task force follows suit.
Yet Boyce doesn’t just want to catch the thieves, whom he sees as simple criminals. He wants to arrest the most powerful and dangerous people – the wealthy, like Noye, who bribe the cops for protection, and the elite who reap the profits of organized crime but don’t get their fingers dirty.
Savoring a fast pace and a wide canvas, Gold zoot between scenes, locations and characters. Everyone realizes this vividly, whether it’s the wily, menacing South London gangster played by Sean Harris or the gold broker’s wife – that’s Stefanie Martini – who doesn’t know that her husband is busy moving a fortune in stolen gold every month. She wonders why he is too busy to take a vacation with his family.
Like almost all British stories, Gold is shaded, if not shaped by the class system. The bad guys and the police come from the lower strata of a society run for the benefit of their posh social “bests.” The series is not without sympathy for its bad actors, taking care to make us understand what pushes the crooks to be scammers.
The center of the series is the battle between its two strongest characters, the arrogant Noye and the buttoned-up Inspector Boyce. Both are deeply unhappy with the class system. But where the amoral Noye believes he’s just grabbing his fair share from a system rigged against him, Boyce holds to an older ideal of honor. He is particularly angered by corruption among the police and the wealthy classes, and works hard to slow this rot. But he’s too smart to think he can stop it.
At one point, the gold dealer is preparing a real estate deal in Ibiza. To make things right, he has to deliver an envelope full of cash to a local cop. He finds this reassuring. This confirms his feeling that everyone has a price. Of course, that’s not true – just look at Boyce. Yet it is emblematic. Gold evokes the time when, from the mean streets of south London to the corridors of power, it became acceptable to think that money was the measure of all things.