Just to be clear, this is not a fair review of this programme. It is not fair because I found the programme so awful, that I could only manage to get through one episode of six. I started watching the second episode but had to switch off after twenty minutes. So, to be clear, I did not enjoy it.
The programme I am speaking of is the much promoted and heralded Sky six-parter, Guerrilla. With the headliners being Idris Elba and Freida Pinto, advertising has, misleadingly, lead with their images. Perhaps Idris comes more to the fore in later episodes, but in the opening episode, it is Frida’s character that drives the story.
So the story: Guerrilla tells the story of a group of militants who decide to free a political prisoner and wage war on the establishment after one of their friends is murdered by the police during a demonstration.
We begin with Jas (Pinto) and her partner, Marcus (Babou Ceesay) visiting their activist friend, Dhari (Nathaniel Martello-White) in prison. Later they meet up with another couple, Julian (Nicholas Pinnock) a peaceable activist, and his Irish girlfriend, Fallon (Denise Gough) and head to the pub. Elsewhere, Pence – played by Rory Kinnear, channelling his best Afrikaans accent for some unknown reason – is a policeman on a mission. He wants Julian dead and instructs officers to target him during an upcoming demonstration. During the demonstration, police plants make sure trouble starts. During the ensuing melee, the police beat Julian to death.
An aside – as I write this I am trying to watch the second episode again. It is awful. Utter garbage.
The fact that this is written by a black person is even more galling. John Ridley, off the back of the critically acclaimed 12 Years A Slave – once again I must admit I was not a fan of that either, though I did not hate it – is an American – and how it shows! – has already received some backlash for casting an Asian Indian, Pinto, in the lead role of a black activist drama, weakly offering that his own real life partner is of Asian descent and a strong woman! If we all decide to write dramas based on the people we like and admire, whilst using historical themes as our context, we can no doubt look forward to a version of Jews being liberated en masse by a black man because some well place writer totally knows a guy who would do that!
If that was the only issue with this drama, it would be a minor one. An important one, but in the context of the sheer awfulness of the show, a minor one. The sets are good and the clothing, though it would be a piss poor wardrobe department that could not recreate the seventies look with so much material and pictorial material available. The music? What the hell are they listening to?!I never such music in an English black household.
Though actors are always struggling for work and black actors even more so, I can only believe that on seeing this, that there are many black actors who feel they dodged a bullet.
I thought perhaps it was my age, as I was only a small child when this was set in the early seventies, but it is too terrible to be that. Ridley, for some reason known only to himself, decides that in the U.K.- in the early seventies – that Indian Asians, African blacks, West Indian blacks, Irish and Afro-Americans all hung out together, fighting against a near apartheid-like police force and their own liberal minded brethren!
He introduces gun play – they can’t get any money together but they can get a gun?! – in the first episode. This is set in England! Nineteen seventies England! Gun was not easy to come by and if a black person had shot a white person of uniform – Marcus shoots an ambulance man – in the seventies, they would have called out the army!
Now suffering episode three – oh god! – they are trying to mix with Marxist!
This show is so mind-numbingly dreadful that I am struggling to find enough adjectives to describe it. It is meandering, cliched, indulgent, unbelievable, dreary, uninspired, mistaken and pointless. I really do not recommend this show, not even for curiosity value!