Created by Jack Thorne
Starring Samantha Morton, Tahar Rahim, John Hurt and Igor Bencina
Four episodes, 307 minutes
A gripping series set in the world of Eastern European gun running, The Last Panthers moves like greased lightning between London, Paris, Belgium and other European cities, tying them through high ranking government officials, local and international law enforcement, criminals and gangsters and religious zealots.
The four part series requires strict attention. A lot happens in its twisting, volatile, rarely still unfolding. It’s detailed, nuanced and beautifully conceived and acted by an international cast. It’s a jewel of minimalism in filmmaking and is reminiscent of the great conspiracy films of the 70’s.
It begins with a diamond robbery in Marseilles by a hazmat clad crew with dashes of pink, a sign that the storied daylight bandits the Pink Panthers have come back. All goes according to their meticulous plan but a child is killed in the crossfire.
Samantha Morton is Naomi, a UK insurance adjuster who works with MI6’s high ranking officer Tom played by Hurt. Rahim is Khalil a French-Algerian policeman and Igor Bencina is Mladic, who arrives on the scene later, a solider turned organised gangster in the illegal trafficking business and a monster of a man.
Naomi and Tom have known each other for a long while; he mentored her and assigned her to important cases. She rises through the ranks thanks to her good work and his good favour. She is an intendent claims specialist but works solely for Tom and thinks of him as a father figure.
Khalil is struggling in his Paris police station trying to overcome its torpor. He’s dedicated to justice and will vanquish it using any means possible. He lives with his mother and family who depend on him as their moral centre and breadwinner in the absence of his brother who has disappeared.
They find themselves together battling the Last Panthers but its hard, thankless labour. Mladic and his crew have sewn up governments and law enforcement and have trained an international army of thugs and young children who have no other source of money or belonging. And now his gang is infiltrating the international real estate industry – including government interests – as a security force for hire.
The series is chilling – corruption grows and mutates and drags in defenceless people who held no grudges before the promise of money and protection was made. The threat of complete social and economic devolution is in the air, even as life appears to go on as normal in the streets of Belgrade, Paris and London. Tension is around every corner and in every moment.
Jarring scenarios emerge as the story progresses, for instance, Khalil’s family is suddenly routed out of Paris to live in a remote desert home, taking what’s on their backs, Mladic throws a children’s birthday party in his nouveau riche mansion as he plots his next murderous crimes and Naomi realises the truth of her situation. It’s aggressive, relentless and breathtaking.
The Last Panthers is truly edge-of-your-seat stuff and sometimes the tension is harrowing. It moves organically and believably, all the story threads constantly interweaving. It takes some interest in the personal lives of the players but its primary focus is the deadly game being played out between some of the mostly deadly human forces on earth. And of course, some people are never brought to justice.
The Last Panthers – available now on DVD and Blu-Ray via Acorn.tv
Also…watch David Bowie’s music teaser: