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Jah Wobble's Top Five... DVD box-set thrillers

Ahead of his show in Liverpool, the brilliant bassist behind PiL reveals his ones to watch

Published on September 21st 2012.

Jah Wobble's Top Five... DVD box-set thrillers

Jah Wobble (aka John Joseph Wardle) is a bass guitarist, singer, poet and composer who achieved fame as the original bass player in Public Image Ltd (PiL) in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

He went on to a successful solo career, continuing to the present. He has big connections with Liverpool, being married to a Chinese-adopted scouser, the guzheng player and harpist Zi Lan Liao. In 2008 he teamed up with her and the Pagoda Chinese Youth Orchestra for Chinese Dub, a European Capital of Culture commission. He reunited with fellow PiL guitarist Keith Levene for Metal Box In Dub and the album Yin & Yang. He plays Liverpool's Captstone Theatre on Thursday October 5 and is well worth catching. 

Here are his top five DVD box-set thrillers.

The Pusher Trilogy (Denmark)
Very good Danish gangster trilogy, or perhaps I should say drug-dealer trilogy, that spans the nine years between 1996 and 2005. Indigenous Danes do business with gregarious Macedonian newcomers, who in turn, over the course of the three films, deal with a new wave of Albanian drug importers, even more ruthless and brutal than their Macedonian predecessors.

The film in no way glamorises the modern day gangster lifestyle. Far from it; Nicolas Winding-Refn's vision is bleak and despairing. Nearly every character is damaged and dysfunctional. Yet similar to his movie 'Bronson' , he engenders  a feeling of empathy towards his characters, despite their dark deeds. I particularly took a shine to the Macedonian gang boss, Milo, even though he made like a Dewhurst employee on occasion.

The films also highlights the strong links that exist, between the world of vice and class A drugs, both on the microcosmic and macrocosmic levels.

Breaking BadBreaking Bad: "Sophisticated stuff"

Breaking Bad (USA)
Has a rather unlikely setting: Albuquerque in New Mexico. Certainly its storyline is most atypical to what you would see in a UK-based production. Walter White is a chemistry teacher diagnosed with late stage (terminal) lung cancer.

White turns to making crystal meth in order to secure his family's financial future. Ostensibly it doesn’t have much in common with The Pusher Trilogy, but both feature characters that invoke sympathy as well as revulsion. The world is not a black and white place.

This is sophisticated stuff, a good example of the (HBO led), TV Renaissance that has reshaped TV drama globally over the last decade. Unfortunately the UK is a notable exception.

As in football we have been left far behind. Anyone for Inspector Morse?

OzPrison drama Oz: Too dark

Oz (USA)
This is where that TV drama renaissance started. It was the first one-hour drama series commissioned and made by HBO.

The first series premièred in 1997 and it ran for six seasons.

It was based around a maximum security prison in an unnamed US state. I have never seen anything else on TV as unremittingly dark and depressing as OZ. Years after it was aired on TV I watched the box sets.

Normally I splurge on box sets. Self discipline goes out the window and me and the missus are still glued to the TV in the early hours. But not with Oz. Too dark. One at a time is quite enough for me.

BraquoBraquo: No smiling please

Braquo (France)
Not as sophisticated as its French counterpart, Spiral, and certainly not for the faint hearted.

Based around the exploits of four corrupt police officers, it is obviously a noir-inspired vision of the underbelly of Paris

It inspires memories of Alain Delon and Catherine Deneuve. In fact I found this series to be preposterous, even by Gallic, standards, even though it written by an ex-cop.

It's as if the starting point for the cast is that no one must ever smile (sneering is OK). If anyone mentions words like "justice" or compassion, everyone else in the scene will collectively sneer at them.

In two series I haven’t seen a hint of humour. The only chuckle you will hear is in regard to somebody else’s misfortune. Everyone in it, women included, look like they need a hot shower and a thorough scrubbing. Of course because of all that I love it. It’s unashamedly visceral. In that respect it reminds me of The Shield’(USA), or of Underbelly (Australia). 


The KillingThe Killing: 'Main characters such as this would have been unthinkable a few years ago'

The Killing (Denmark)
It was a toss-up between this and The Bridge (a Danish /Swedish production). Similar to 'Spiral's’ Laure Berthaud, the main character, Sarah Lund, is a woman.

As with Berthaud, Lund is respected for her detective skills. However, like Berthaud, her methods are sometimes questionable.

Both women are tough and they are both obsessive outsiders. They are completely focused on their jobs. Normally only men, in these sort of crime dramas,  are allowed that sort of (rather sad), stubborn singularity of purpose. 

Main characters such as this would have been unthinkable a few years ago. The Killing, similar to its Nordic counterparts (such as Borgen), doesn’t miss a trick when it comes to social commentary subtexts.

They learnt well from The Wire. It’s all very meaningful and great entertainment to boot. What else would you want? Or perhaps I just need to get out more.

*Jah Wobble + The Modern Jazz Ensemble, Friday 5 October - 7.30pm. The Capstone Theatre, Liverpool Hope University Creative Campus, 17 Shaw Street, Liverpool L6 1HP. Tel: 0151 291 3578. Admission: £17.50.  TicketQuarter, Merseytravel Travel Centre, Queen Square, Liverpool L1 1RG. Tel: 0844 8000 410.

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