Ripper Street Review: The Weight of One Man’s Heart

I can freely admit that the main reason I am watching Ripper Street is Jerome Flynn. He is not the lead, like Matthew McFadyen, or the Yankee eye candy, like Adam Rothenberg, but he is a superb actor, who can takes a sow’s ear of a role and turn it into pure gold. I loved him as the saucy Bronn in Game of Thrones, but there he made Bronn the perfect foil to Peter Dinklage‘s amazing  Tyrion.  It’s not easy to stand out in a cast so peppered with gob smacking talent – Flynn managed it though.

In Ripper Street, as two fisted cop Bennet Drake,  he has been the enigma, making you wonder what is behind the grim faced, bare knuckle exterior of Reid’s hard man – we knew he is a former soldier, and we knew from when he dropped off 14-year-old Thomas at the army recruiting station that he didn’t think he was doing the boy any favours. This episode gave us a lot more insight into this man’s heart.

Frst he clumsily but tenderly romances Rose, from Long Susan‘s brothel, then he meets up with a former army colleague, played by another Game of Thrones refugee, Iain Glen. (He is Ser Jorah Mormont, another much loved character). Embittered by the treatment of former soldiers, he is carrying a kind of Robin Hood Crusade, robbing from the rich and giving it to the veterans.



He fits into the Ripper Street milieu perfectly, and I really enjoyed his performance. However, this really was Flynn’s episode. Tormented by his own dark memories of war, and longing to find peace and happiness with the woman he loves, instead he is brought face to face with the blunt reality of his life. He is too damaged and too poor even for the love of a prostitute. Jackson tried to warn him against offering Rose his ‘whole heart’ but Drake has to learn for himself. All he can do is set his gift for her – and his hopes – free.



Only the most stony hearted could have been unmoved by Flynn’s beautiful performance of a man letting go of his dreams in such a painful metaphor, and only a great actor could play it so beautifully, without a trace of mawkishess. I confess I wiped away a tear.

If this is what we can expect from Ripper Street, they’ve got me hooked.


What I am watching on TV

After a long period of disinterest in seemingly endless reality shows, ‘come on down!’ game shows and morning news and current affairs disguised as high volume infomercials, I am actually watching TV again. That doesn’t mean the DVD player has fallen into to disuse, as there isn’t anything good on e very night, but HBO have certainly encouraged others to lift their game. I still have to watch Game of Thrones and Carnivale on DVD, as I refuse to have Foxtel, but these days there is enough on Free To Air to make watching it a pleasure again.

Ripper Street

Three fine specimens of Victorian manhood right here

Ripper Street: Absolutely top of the list. For one thing, it has Bronn from Game of Thrones, otherwise known as actor Jerome Flynn, playing a pugilistic cop in Whitechapel, scene of the Ripper murders. I always have a fondness for bareknuckle boxers – my great grandfather Charlie Mitchell who fought John L Sullivan for the world title twice. Flynn’s acting style has me completely won over, and he fits as perfectly into the post-Ripper milieu of Whitechapel as he did into Westeros.

Flynn also seems to be adept as establishing good rapport with other actors. As with Peter Dinklage in Game of Thrones, Flynn has established a comfortable rapport with star Matthew McFadyen (no relation to Braveheart’s handsome Angus) and Adam Rothberg (who also does a nice line in sardonic humour). Watching these three work together is half the pleasure of Ripper St, enjoying the beautifully crafted reconstruction of filthy Victorian London is the other half.


This guy is awesome – that’s all

Vikings: I love Vikings in history and have been a fan of Gabriel Byrne since Hello Again, for goodness sake – but it is the production values of this Canadian-Irish saga and the performance of Australian Travis Fimmel that keeps bringing me back. Crikey, is that really the guy fro m the Calvin Klein bill boards? That’s a whole world away from this. He plays the mythic hero Ragnor who pillaged and plundered his way across the seas to Britain, Ireland and France, the bloodthirsty barbarian who sacked monasteries and ploughed his way through peaceful settlements looking for riches. I am desperately hoping this is not just ‘the role Fimmel was born to play’, because I want to see what else he can do with his Heath Ledgerish cheek and charm and wayward but confident acting skills.

If there is still a chance that Vikings were misunderstood philanthropists who carried bunches of flowers when they arrived in their dragon-headed boats, there’s no mention of it here. They are barbarians, arriving swords in hand to slice up unarmed monks and take their gold. But for all this simple bloodlust, and the venal greed of the Earl (Gabriel Byrne), Ragnor is no comic book, Americanised Viking. At times he is even adorable, a loving dad, sexy husband and all the rest. This complex character is beautifully realised by Fimmel, and he has a good supporting cast behind him. Katheryn Winnick as Ragnor’s wife Lagertha is especially good. It is good, also, to see the origin of Tolkien’s  ‘shield maiden’.


What’s with the kid and the dog?

The Dome: Yeah, I’m watching, but The Stand it ain’t. It does have some good characters, and an interesting premise, but mainly it’s a good laugh. The plot holes and misconceptions about women and childbirth are so male (what are you thinking, Stephen? Women do not stop to have a chat with the midwife halfway through the last stage of childbirth, so the midwife can say “you can start pushing again now” – contractions don’t work that way – just ask the missus) and so amusing it is impossible not to watch. Of course the great thing is that every blunder can be explained away as something the Dome did. Perfect plot device really. I must remember that one. TV is so educational even in its dumbest moments. But I honestly think it may have jumped the shark with the last episode. A blonde from Big Jim’s and Barbie’s past turns up and it turns out they are both working for her. Really? Just when I thought we’d never hear mention of the reporter’s dead hubby again. And Junior’s a good guy after all, just misunderstood. There is a way out of the Dome, writers – it’s called a remote control.

It saddens me to note that I’m not watching any Australian productions like Offspring and A Place to Call Home, but there is just nothing that matches up to Ripper St or Vikings – it is all bland soaps about relationships where people break up, make up, get pregnant, and die (not necessarily in that order). A Place to Call Home was the biggest disappointment of all, full of clichés and hammy acting. I tuned out mentally in the opening scenes on the liner, when they reversed the genders in the Titanic ‘Rose jumping off the ship’ scene. After that it was pure Mills and Boon.

Actor Spotlight: Ko Shibasaki

Ko Shibasaki is one of those actors you will see often in Japanese movies, but but you could be forgiven for not noticing it at first. The woman has a chameleon quality that blends into the role, the movie and the director’s vision. In a word, she is superb.


This is how many fans in the west first encountered her, as sexy, deadly Mitsuko in Battle Royale.  Tokyo born Yukie Yamamura started her acting and singing career at 14, changing her name to that of her favourite manga character. It was Battle Royale that propelled her to starring roles on TV and in movies.


In Chugashin Ari (One Missed Call) she played Yumi, whose friend Natsumi dies after receiving a mysterious voice message of herself screaming in terror in two days’ time. She was paired with the brilliant actor Shinichi Tsutsumi for the first time as the detective who helps her get to the bottom of the mystery.


In Maison de Himiko, Ko played Saori, a girl estranged from her father, who ends up at a nursing home for gay men when she goes with her father’s lover, Haruhiko, to see him before he dies. Haruhiko is played by Shinobi’s Jo Odagiri. A touching and beautiful story of the struggle to accept and be accepted for your differences, and one of Ko and Joe’s best performances.


In Shinji Higuchi‘s Nihon Chinbotsu (Japan Sinks) she was somewhat overshadowed by the dazzling CGI, but still managed to stand out as rescue worker Reiko, who helps care for a child orphaned by the disaster (Mayuko Fukuda from L Change the World) and falls tenderly in love with submersible pilot Toshio (Tsuyoshi Kusanagi). They provide the sense of humanity underlying the big splashy special effects.


She looks magnificent in the period drama Dororo, where she plays the title role of a girl raised as a boy, an artful thief who joins with demon hunter Hyakkimaru to retrieve parts of his body that will make him human again.


In Maiko Haaan!!! she plays Fujiko, who is dumped by her boyfriend for a glamorous geisha. She starts training as a maiko (apprentice geisha) to win him back. I haven’t been able to get a copy of this movie to review it, but it’s billed as a ‘screwball comedy’.

Shaolin Girl looks great. She plays Rin, trained in kung fu, who ends up  coaching a university lacrosse team.  You can see the trailer here.


In The Devotion of Suspect X, one of my favourite movies, it is Shinichi Tsutsumi who steals every scene he is in, as the obsessive but devoted math teacher who manages to stay one step ahead of detective Shunpei Kusanagi (Ko Shibasaki) and physicist and scientific consultant Yukawa (Masaharu Fukuyama).

Ko Shibasaki is next due to appear in Keanu Reeves’ 47 Ronin and can also be seen in Ooku and Shokudo Katatsumuri (Rinco’s Restaurant) both released in 2010.