Who'd have thought the life of a loss-adjustor could be so thrilling? The last one I met was on an industrial estate looking at a scrape on the side of a Skoda. Not the sort of work that Naomi, the character played with quiet toughness by Samantha Morton in the first of the two-partner The Last Panthers, gets involved in. Her job is to catch a vicious gang of Serbian jewel thieves, based on the capers of a real-life gang called, yes, The Pink Panthers, who for the past 20 years have stolen hundreds of millions of pounds worth of gems. They won their misleadingly sweet-sounding nickname after the Pink Panther jewel/jewel-thief/film franchise of legend.
Most of the action takes place in the grimier bits of Marseille and Belgrade, but it starts off in a very smart jewellers in Paris, where the violence deployed in the robbery – culminating in the accidental slaughter of a six-year-old girl – was almost unbearably nasty, made the more so by the bizarre emptying of a can of pink paint over a terrified shop assistant. No sign of Inspector Clouseau, then, but the French coppers on this case seemed incompetent and the flashbacks to the Bosnian civil war remind us of a sub-plot involving our heroic insurance woman and the Serb roughs.
If you can cope with the violence, the underlit filming, the dialogue in French with subtitles, and the unremittingly depressing scenes then The Last Panthers is a fine thriller, with a touch of The French Connection about it. It is certainly heartening to see another series with a stylish and memorable title sequence. The most cheering moment is probably the brief appearance by John Hurt, who declares that Marseille "is the gateway to Africa and the arsehole of France", as Inspector Clouseau probably wouldn't say.
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