CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews last night’s TV: Tokyo Vice is totally gripping – if you miss the first episode
You Won’t Believe This
Skip the first instalment. If you haven’t caught up with Tokyo Vice (BBC1), the drama about Japan’s organised crime gangs, save yourself 60 minutes of boredom and frustration by starting with part two.
Yes, the opening hour was directed by Hollywood veteran Michael Mann, who made such great movies as Thief, with James Caan, and the Pacino/De Niro thriller Heat.
But it took a long time to go nowhere, and told us nothing that you won’t glean quickly from the much pacier second episode, directed by Josef Kubota Wladyka — a relative unknown.
Tokyo Vice, based on the memoirs of American-born crime reporter Jake Adelstein, has been a decade in the making. The lead role was originally meant for Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe, though it is now Ansel Elgort who stars.
Tokyo Vice, based on the memoirs of American-born crime reporter Jake Adelstein, has been a decade in the making. The lead role was originally meant for Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe, though it is now Ansel Elgort (right) who stars
He plays the gauche young foreigner, clinging on to his job at Japan’s biggest newspaper and treated as a strange pet by gangsters, the police and even his own colleagues.
The series kicked off with a double bill and I’m glad it did, because after the first hour I was ready to write it off completely.
Jake bicycled endlessly through the streets of Tokyo, walked down corridors, opened doors, went through doors . . .
The longest scene saw him sitting in an exam room, completing a test and gazing around at the other candidates — only to realise later that he’d missed out the last page of questions. Yes, that was as exciting as it sounds.
But the action picked up after a break for the News at 10.10pm, though most viewers will surely have given up in disappointment and gone to bed.
Later, with the style less self-consciously filmic, Jake tried to befriend a corrupt detective, who fed him fake stories for fun. He flirted with a nightclub hostess, compared trainers with a nervous young thug and gatecrashed a mock execution after tuning in to police radio messages.
The title teases us with promises of a Miami Vice remake, all hair gel, sunglasses and speedboats loaded with cocaine. Japan’s version of vice is much more corporate.
The Yakuza gangs, with their roots in medieval Japan’s feudal system, are nothing like the Mafia. It’s illegal to own a gun or even fire one in Japan, and most criminals don’t carry firearms.
Instead, they run extortion and protection rackets, sucking so much money out of the economy that in the late 1990s — when Tokyo Vice is set — they triggered a national recession.
Jake is on the trail of Yakuza loan sharks who bleed their victims dry, sometimes literally. It’s gory but never glamorous: when Jake isn’t pedalling his bike, he’s catching the subway train. There are no speedboats in downtown Tokyo.
Christopher Stevens: The most glamorous crime of the night was an art heist in Leamington Spa, described on comedian Ellie Taylor’s fib-fest, You Won’t Believe This (C4)
The most glamorous crime of the night was an art heist in Leamington Spa, described on comedian Ellie Taylor’s fib-fest, You Won’t Believe This (C4). This twist on BBC1’s celebrity panel game Would I Lie To You? challenges members of the public to spin convincing tales to a pair of former police detectives.
The cops were immediately sceptical about the robbery at an art gallery. ‘You are telling me you had armed response officers in Leamington Spa in five minutes?’ demanded one.
Put like that, it does seem highly unlikely.
Still raw around the edges, the format is unnecessarily complicated, but its biggest problem is a lack of imagination. The true stories stood out, because they were quirky and comical, while the lies, by contrast, seemed boringly plausible.