Gangs of London was released in March and is now beginning to build momentum after the show hit Sky One (it originally started on Sky Atlantic/Now TV).
There have been mixed reactions and reviews, but generally the action-packed, over-the-top, dark and at times even comical, struggle of rival gangs in modern-day London (well, pre-lockdown) had many, including us, captivated. Recently it was voted THE most violent show on British TV. We can’t say you haven’t been warned! Here we give our take on what makes the show so great to watch, plus we got to speak to some of the people involved in its creation about their experience too!
WARNING: Before you go any further – there are very mild reveals in this article that will by no means spoil the series for you but will alert you to scenes that will happen during the course of the show.
It’s Not Your Average ‘Gangster’ Show
The minute one sees the word ‘gangster’ and ‘London’ your mind associates them with cockney accents, Lock Stock, Snatch, and Ray Winstone (the list goes on!) – such is the genre that’s become a bit predictable. Well not here. Though criticised for the lead characters being more posh than Cockney, the show features a number of different gangs from a variety of backgrounds, all spread across London, which creates diversity, makes for a different format, and offers a fresher take on the genre.
From the very first episode, one of our main characters embarks on a crazy martial arts- infused punch up involving a dart, some walls, and a great foot chase, THEN gets in a horrible altercation with a machete-wielding chap who is built like a brick shit house! Immediately you get the sense that you are not only entering the murky world of gangs, but from a totally radical and violent perspective as well.
Speaking to director Xavier Gens about the violence, we asked whether there was a line which they couldn’t cross:
“WE WERE TOTALLY FREE TO PUSH THE LIMIT OF THE VIOLENCE AND TORTURE IN THE SHOW. WE WERE ALWAYS LOOKING AT WHAT WE WERE DOING WITH GENEROSITY AND I ALWAYS KEPT IN MIND WHAT I LOVE AS A FAN OF GENRE MOVIES AND HORROR MOVIES ESPECIALLY. SO IT WAS MORE ABOUT GENEROSITY IN THE GENRE: WE WANTED TO PLEASE THE FANS IN A CLEVER WAY TO GIVE THEM A MAXIMUM WITHOUT LIMIT”
One thing we found fascinating about the series was the directors behind the camera – two episodes are directed by the excellent Gareth Evans, if you enjoy frenetic martial art movies then check his debut feature The Raid and its sequel. Gareth also directs that episode, featuring one of the most epic gun battles probably seen on TV – think Games of Throne’s Battle of Bastards meets Skyfall’s finale (more on that episode later).
But it is not all about Gareth – you also have two brilliant horror directors in the excellent Corin Hardy (The Nun, The Hallows) and Xavier Gens (The Divide, Hitman) who has both horror and further genres on his credentials. The introduction of these directors in this environment brings a different experience to the show. With graphic relentless violence, high body counts, and some incredibly tense scenes at times, you forget that you are watching a TV show rather than a late night horror.
There is a wonderful cast in the show too, with a variety of fresh-faced talent mixing in with some seasoned veterans. One standout performance we thoroughly enjoyed was from rising star Sope Dirisu who plays Elliot Finch, main ally to leading character Sean Wallace. Some new faces on the block include actor Orli Shuka who plays Luan (pictured below) – here is what Orli had to say about working with the cast and directors:
“It was very exciting, blessed with such a huge opportunity, although slightly scary, I sensed a different level of talent of creators and actors which made me feel special. Loved the diversity- shows with subtitles – and London as the epic city of this show. The casting was superb and the chemistry between the characters was electrifying. I believe we were very lucky to have so much talent in one place – Sope, Joe, Lucian, Michele, Colm…the breathtaking genius of Gareth Evans, the great passion of Corin Hardy, and the vast experience of Xavier Gens”
When asked about working with the cast and crew, director Xavier Gens stated “I will say that the overall experience and the entire cast and crew were amazing. I made friends. I met fantastic people. I think working alongside Gareth Evans and Corin Hardy was a real privilege. These guys are super mega talented and push the best of you. It really was the best experience I ever had”.
It is great to hear that everyone had such a positive experience working together and that certainly shines through on the show.
The Action – especially THAT episode
Over the years British TV’s landscape has become more and more geared up for action sequences, but we can honestly say that nothing will prepare you for the onslaught of action you are bombarded with on Gangs of London. Sometimes there is hardly room to breathe. Yes, it is over the top, and that is why we loved it – each episode we were met with a mini-movie, building and building towards a segment where things are going to royally kick off.
We spoke to Orli about a particular scene which was incredibly intense – it involved his character Luan in a tiny hotel room full of machete wielding angry gangsters:
“To describe it as intense is an understatement, the word that comes to my mind is bloodcurdling. That breathtaking action is a result of the wizardry of Jude Poyer and his team after that the adrenaline hit me. I believe all that power that comes to him (Luan) suddenly is from his love for his wife and family. I wanted Luan to be 3 dimensional himself -family- the others.The panic attack that follows the scene made him switch from killing mode to human mode and takes it to a whole different level. The scene was so demanding that my body hurt for days afterwards. I still can not believe the impact that that scene has made to the public”.
Those that have seen the show will tell you – “just wait for episode 5” – and they are not wrong. We spoke to Mads Koudal who plays the mysterious Leif about the episode:
“The shootout in episode 5, kind of reminded me of a classic shootout in a western. Especially ‘Tombstone’ comes to my mind. I felt it had that same energy to it, that same build up and tension”
The episode will stay firmly in your minds well after the show is over! There have been some brilliant videos being released about the making of this episode which are well worth a watch after you’ve seen the series.
Still unsure? Check out the epic trailer below which should give you a good taster of what to expect! If you seen the show we would love to hear your thoughts!
If you’re ready for the thrill ride, Gangs of London is out now to binge watch on Now TV or you can catch it on Sky One.