'Inside Men' Premieres on BBCA

Ross Langager

Inside Men slots nicely into the rich British television tradition of intriguing one-off drama serials.

Inside Men

Airtime: Wednesdays, 10pm ET
Cast: Steven Mackintosh, Warren Brown, Nicola Walker, Ashley Walters, Leila Mimmack, Kierston Wareing
Subtitle: Series Premiere
Network: BBC America
Director: James Kent
Air date: 2012-06-20

John (Steven Mackintosh) appears to have no choice. When first we see him, he's being directed by armed men dressed in drab jumpsuits and unsettling bald-headed rubber masks. As his voiceover indicates that he's long been trained to obey orders, John uses his pass-card to gain access to a large warehouse, then watches helplessly as the men in his escort beats one security guard senseless and then blasts the knee of another.

Here Inside Men, premiering on BBCA 20 June, cuts to reveal another reason for John's submission, his wife Kirsty (Nicola Walker) and their child, held hostage by an armed assailant in their living room. There they sit, nervous but compliant, Kirsty insisting that her husband is no hero and will do as he is told. Cut back to the terrified John, who proves this out, opening a safe for the men and watching as the thieves begin to wheel out bin after bin of pound-notes into the back of waiting cube vans. When one of them leaves his shotgun carelessly on the ground, the traumatized John picks it up and looks long and hard at the guard Chris (Ashley Walters), who is slowly bleeding out through his knee. “September,” an onscreen title reads.

Another title returns us to the previous January, and we begin to learn the identities of these “Inside Men." John is a by-the-book manager of a high-security currency counting house in Bristol, England, that longtime port city of exchange and underhanded intrigue. He’s fastidious and efficient but seemingly, not very ambitious. His crowning achievement thus far is that he's regularly earning a monthly award from his boss for the smallest recorded loss of paper money in the counting process. The prize is a bottle of whiskey, and, of course, John never cracks open any of his trophies to take a sip and unwind.

John's exquisitely repressed frustration is of a piece with Mackintosh's previous work, including the turncoat cop whose deceit sets off an escalating bloodbath at the end of the first season of Luther. John appears to be a nebbish with a touch of sociopathy about him. He’s sweet with Kirsty and is as eager as she is to adopt a child, but when he fails to win his monthly bottle, he lies to her, buying one from the store instead and pretending that he earned it.

Like any self-respecting sociopath, John accepts his own habitual dishonesty but is uncompromising when faced with equivalent dishonesty in others. He tosses a j’accuse! at new Eastern European employee Dita (Leila Mimmack), whom he suspects of filching notes, and then dispatches the soft-spoken Chris to fire her and escort her off the premises. In turn, hapless Chris finds himself falling for Dita. He overlooks her evident waywardness and invites her first to live with him and then to have his child.

Although John promises to finagle him a promotion at the depot as well as a higher salary to support his growing brood, Chris’ circumstances make him an easy mark for the schemes of fellow depot lackey Marcus (Warren Brown). Faced with a materialistic wife (Kierston Wareing) and debts of his own, the wannabe master thief Marcus comes up with a plan to smuggle out £50, 000 piecemeal from the depot, with Chris as his security pat-down accomplice. Having laid out the plan’s likelihood of success, the two conspirators are too tempted not to put it into motion.

Directed by James Kent from a teleplay by Tony Basgallop, Inside Men slots nicely into the rich British television tradition of intriguing one-off drama serials like State of Play and Edge of Darkness. Its themes are closely entwined with our current state of economic anxiety, poking and prodding at every possible angle of income earning and its many ethical valences.

Such themes are embodied by John, who earns not only money but also his sense of self-worth by taking very good care of other people’s money. Why shouldn’t he consider maximizing both those earnings and that self-worth, if all that would require is a smidgeon more duplicity than his established level of professional accomplishment demands? Greed, however we choose to define it, proves rather irresistible as its own justification. A lean moral thriller, Inside Men considers the core impulses of such justification, and draws out severe implications with considerable skill.






'What a Fantastic Death Abyss': David Bowie's 'Outside' at 25

David Bowie's Outside signaled the end of him as a slick pop star and his reintroduction as a ragged-edged arty agitator.


Dream Folk's Wolf & Moon Awaken the Senses with "Eyes Closed" (premiere)

Berlin's Wolf & Moon are an indie folk duo with a dream pop streak. "Eyes Closed" highlights this aspect as the act create a deep sense of atmosphere and mood with the most minimal of tools.


Ranking the Seasons of 'The Wire'

Years after its conclusion, The Wire continues to top best-of-TV lists. With each season's unique story arc, each viewer is likely to have favorites.


Paul Reni's Silent Film 'The Man Who Laughs' Is Serious Cinema

There's so much tragedy present, so many skullduggeries afoot, and so many cruel and vindictive characters in attendance that a sad and heartbreaking ending seems to be an obvious given in Paul Reni's silent film, The Man Who Laughs.


The Grahams Tell Their Daughter "Don't Give Your Heart Away" (premiere)

The Grahams' sweet-sounding "Don't Give Your Heart Away" is rooted in struggle, inspired by the couples' complicated journey leading up to their daughter's birth.


Gloom Balloon Deliver an Uplifting Video for "All My Feelings For You" (premiere)

Gloom Balloon's Patrick Tape Fleming considers what making a music video during a pandemic might involve because, well, he made one. Could Fellini come up with this plot twist?


Brian Cullman Gets Bluesy with "Someday Miss You" (premiere)

Brian Cullman's "Someday Miss You" taps into American roots music, carries it across the Atlantic and back for a sound that is both of the past and present.


IDLES Have Some Words for Fans and Critics on 'Ultra Mono'

On their new album, Ultra Mono, IDLES tackle both the troubling world around them and the dissenters that want to bring them down.


Napalm Death Return With Their Most Vital Album in Decades

Grindcore institution Napalm Death finally reconcile their experimental side with their ultra-harsh roots on Throes of Joy in the Jaws of Defeatism.


NYFF: 'Notturno' Looks Passively at the Chaos in the Middle East

Gianfranco Rosi's expansive documentary, Notturno, is far too remote for its burningly immediate subject matter.


What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .


The Avett Brothers Go Back-to-Basics with 'The Third Gleam'

For their latest EP, The Third Gleam, the Avett Brothers leave everything behind but their songs and a couple of acoustic guitars, a bass, and a banjo.


PM Picks Playlist 1: Rett Madison, Folk Devils + More

The first PopMatters Picks Playlist column features searing Americana from Rett Madison, synthpop from Everything and Everybody, the stunning electropop of Jodie Nicholson, the return of post-punk's Folk Devils, and the glammy pop of Baby FuzZ.


David Lazar's 'Celeste Holm  Syndrome' Appreciates Hollywood's Unsung Character Actors

David Lazar's Celeste Holm Syndrome documents how character actor work is about scene-defining, not scene-stealing.


David Lord Salutes Collaborators With "Cloud Ear" (premiere)

David Lord teams with Jeff Parker (Tortoise) and Chad Taylor (Chicago Underground) for a new collection of sweeping, frequently meditative compositions. The results are jazz for a still-distant future that's still rooted in tradition.


Laraaji Takes a "Quiet Journey" (premiere +interview)

Afro Transcendentalist Laraaji prepares his second album of 2020, the meditative Moon Piano, recorded inside a Brooklyn church. The record is an example of what the artist refers to as "pulling music from the sky".


Blues' Johnny Ray Daniels Sings About "Somewhere to Lay My Head" (premiere)

Johnny Ray Daniels' "Somewhere to Lay My Head" is from new compilation that's a companion to a book detailing the work of artist/musician/folklorist Freeman Vines. Vines chronicles racism and injustice via his work.


The Band of Heathens Find That Life Keeps Getting 'Stranger'

The tracks on the Band of Heathens' Stranger are mostly fun, even when on serious topics, because what other choice is there? We all may have different ideas on how to deal with problems, but we are all in this together.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.