There a reunion of old acting chums on Sky1 on Saturday. With Scum alumni Ray Winstone and Phil Daniels both aboard, this adaptation of J Meade Falkner’s 1898 swashbuckler Moonfleet should have been a right old Cockney knees-up. It wasn’t, unfortunately.
As befits the title, the scenes in moonlit coves, where smugglers carried rum barrels to shore were beautiful and shimmering, but that only made the characters more dull by comparison.
John Trenchard (Aneurin Barnard) is a typical hero of Victorian fiction, an orphan who dreams of making his fortune so he can marry his deeply tedious heroine Grace (Sophie Cookson). This Grace also happens to be the daughter of his sworn enemy, the local magistrate and two-dimensional villain Mohune (Ben Chaplin).
It was up to Winstone, then, to give us something worth watching. In the years since Scum he’s attained the gravitas and girth necessary to play a salty seadog like Elzevir Block, but the truth is Winstone’s growling smuggler could just as easily be his growling retired gangster or his growling Tudor king, and they’re all much improved when he’s working from a lively script.
Moonfleet might have had some appeal for those with a nostalgic attachment to the original book; everyone else would be bored stiff.