Grim. Unrelenting. Relentlessly downbeat. An extremely difficult watch. No, not soundbites describing the year that was 2016. These are all the reasons that I never got around to watching the rest of series 2 of hard-boiled French cop drama Braquo. So despite being a big fan of series 1 there’s a distinct gap in my Braquo knowledge as series 4 starts.
It’s a hard watch, but it’s good. This is the real deal – far grittier than any US or British cop show I’ve ever seen. Braquo was created by former cop Olivier Marchal and based on his knowledge of the beat – a sobering thought considering the morals, or lack of, on show in every single one of his characters. You’re in safe, if grubby, hands, with the Canal+ mark of quality. Just don’t ask where those hands have been.
So to series 4 and there’s no time to waste! It’s an explosive disorienting start – extremely brutal even by their own standards. Detective Eddie Caplan, 50% cool leather jacket, 50% bad-ass hombre, introduces himself with a hail of gunfire, saving the day as he digs his colleague Roxanne Delgado up from where she’s been buried alive! Meanwhile very bad things have been happening to Walter Morlighem’s kids. They’re safe but traumatised and a threat looms over the family. Walter looks out of shape, exhausted and broken. Who has done all this to our hard-drinking, hard-living team?
This Paris police squad are dirty cops with their own murky brand of justice. They will do anything to protect their own and they mete out justice in the most violent ways to those who might otherwise get away with it. This is a show about anger and violence, and looks to be getting more angry and more violent as the new series unfold.
I’m very glad to see they still work out of a drafty-looking ancient warehouse-cum-garage with a series of dusty and gloomy offices above. (We don’t get to see their personal bar/ club house in this episode. I hope it’s still there). Grim surroundings suit these dirty cops. Starchy new boss Brabant is an extremely smart black man who looks entirely out of place. He’s here in the guise of an internal inspection (again) but immediately takes over and busts Caplan’s boss back down to her regular duties.
Paris in the spring time is world-renowned as a gorgeous, romantic city. There’s not a jot of it on-screen. The palette is grey, muted shadows despite the blue skies and the green leaves on the trees. The cops, the crims and the snitches all have weatherbeaten character faces; red puffy eyes, stubble and a thousand yard stare. Everyone has led hard lives. There are no good guys here. No one is safe.
Last series our team got mixed up with despicable Turkish gangsters, and this is Baba Aroudji’s revenge – Walter killed his son in a shoot-out so Aroudji swore to take revenge on Walter’s children. An eye for an eye. Eddie wants to talk Walter down – there’s no chance. It seems Aroudji’s organisation don’t think much of him – his desire for revenge is a liability that’s getting people killed. They don’t need that heat. Personally no one seems to like him either, calling him a fat pig behind his back and to his face. Perhaps that’s the right word for both these men – both pig-headed and unstoppable in their thirst for revenge.
The series opener has neat little scenes that give you all the facts in one go – like when Eddy met his brother Nathan in jail. Has Nathan ever even been mentioned before, let alone on-screen? Not to worry. Everything you need to know about their relationship is delivered in one go. A little bit soapy perhaps, but it works.
Brabant is determined to get to the bottom of all their dirty deeds and cover-ups, even back to Series 1. That man has got a lot of work to do! He’s got CCTV footage of Roxanne by a burning police car on a night she says she was at home, and he’s happy to present that to her as she lies in a hospital bed. Safe so say, we’re not warming to him or his methods.
The explosive violence continues with a cafe shoot-out. The action looks smarter. I wonder has more money been spent this series? It looks good and bodes well for this ‘war’ between the police and the gangsters everyone is talking about.
Vogel, the baddie from the last series ends up in a very bad way indeed. In a wheelchair, in jail, with family who can’t forgive him. I can’t quite remember who he is, but again, with this cracking pace there’s no need to worry. He’s dead already, in a particularly nasty style! Shame they spent all the money on bullets earlier and didn’t leave any for CGI.
If you have the stomach for it do watch Braquo. It’s hard work but it’s an exceptional series. My advice would be don’t get too attached to any character (apart from maybe grizzly old Eddy who looks like he would survive everything including nuclear war). Only the leather jackets will survive to tell the tale!
Brauqo Series 4 and the Series 1-3 boxset are released on DVD & Blu-ray on Monday 12th December
Try before you buy? Braquo is also available in the UK on Netflix.