Vincent O’Neill never seems to learn. You’d have thought his attempted heist of a Shetland pony in episode one of this comedy about low-level Lancashire crimes would have put him off animal capers altogether, but here he is with a couple of rubber trugs hoisting several grands worth of Koi carp. As with everything in Brassic, it’s not going to end well. A self-described “bipolar thief who lives in the woods”, Vinnie is technically one of life’s abject failures, but he remains a committed optimist, entirely undaunted by the way his moneymaking schemes always collapse in a clatter of unintended consequences.
Joseph Gilgun is wonderfully expressive as Vinnie, his volatile features continually scrunching together and apart like the top of a drawstring bag. Vinnie has a whole crew of amiable duffers behind him, including sex-dungeon master Tommo, who looks like a scaled-down version of Robert Downey Jr (Ryan Sampson); Ash, the blond muscle (Aaron Heffernan); and goofy Dylan (Damien Molony), the brains of the operation, who could easily aim higher but likes weed and thieving too much.
Where the koi are concerned, car mechanic and avowed “fish freak” JJ (Parth Thakerar) comes to the fore. The theft, from a wealthy Japan-obsessive with a Samurai sword, will not be easy, JJ warns: “Fish hate volatility”. Tommo creates a lively distraction in a pet shop by unleashing two geese. The script, by Danny Brocklehurst, wittily piles convolution upon elaboration to make such farcical scenes seem entirely logical. There’s always at least one moment of high physical comedy; this week it’s a hungover Vinnie trying to disentangle himself from the sex sling in Tommo’s dungeon.
All fine ensemble work; but there are some wayward casting choices in the smaller roles. Dominic West, game as he is, feels wrong for lazy and inappropriate Dr Chris Cox. He’s probably too handsome. And it’s a surprise to see Ramon Tikaram as fearsome gangster Terence McCann, still livid about that Shetland pony business. Debbie Rush strikes the right comedic note as lushly lascivious divorcee Daffne.
While the men have all the fun, it’s left to Michelle Keegan as Dylan’s girlfriend Erin to incarnate common sense and periodically issue stern rebukes. A single mum and diligent student, she finds all the laddish fun wearing thin, especially when Dylan’s involvement in nefarious schemes threatens her five-year-old son Tyler (a delightful Jude Riordan). In a world where burglars are adorable and the victims of crime richly deserve it, the role of killjoy is a thankless one.
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