IT’S rare that we get to laud a home-grown drama in the same way as those from the US but in the four years since it first broadcast, Peaky Blinders has become something of a phenomenon.
Across the nation young men are adopting the show’s brutal looking haircut, which combines a short back and sides with a longer mop up top, while over in the States the programme’s blend of stylised violence and vintage suits has become a huge hit with binge-watching audiences on Netflix.
Inspired by the real-life Birmingham gangsters who ran England’s racetracks in the early 1900s - the name apparently comes from the flat caps they wore with razor blades sewn in the brim - Peaky Blinders centres around the Shelby family and more specifically the gang’s leader Tommy Shelby (played with icy menace by Cillian Murphy, pictured above).
Like US dramas The Sopranos or Boardwalk Empire (which shares a similar stylistic approach to Peaky Blinders) basing the drama around a crime family and its dual search for power over its low-life rivals and acceptance in higher society, allows for some fascinating commentary on the social and cultural movements of the day.
Now on series four, Peaky Blinders has already dealt with the mental anguish of the First World War, the rise of the IRA, opium addiction and in the opening of this new season, Tommy is battling against both the New York Mafia and a union firebrand Jessie Eden (Happy Valley’s Charlie Murphy) who is determined to win equal rights for the women workers at Tommy’s factories.
It’s an intriguing mix and when you throw in downright bizarre characters like Tom Hardy’s psychotic Jewish baker/bootlegger from series two or Aiden Gillan’s gypsy assassin Aberama Gold from this latest series, it can feel like the credibility is being stretched a bit too much.
But it’s easy to forgive Peaky Blinders’ hipster credentials when the acting is so good and the violence so deliciously and brutally depicted. The presence of Oscar winner Adrien Brody as sharp-suited gangster Luca Changretta acts as another feather in the peaked cap for a show which got the ultimate accolade when David Bowie professed to be a huge fan before his passing.