For the past couple of weeks I have been enjoying a new British series that is a product of both the BBC and Netflix. The show, Peaky Blinders, is a historical drama set in the British industrial city of Birmingham immediately following World War I. The focus of the story is on a criminal gang (or more accurately a crime family) called the "Peaky Blinders," a deadly crew who earned their name by wearing peaked caps with razor blades sewn into the brim. When a gang member suffered an offense, he had simply to whip off his cap and swing it into the face of the offending party - often blinding that person.
("Peaky Blinders" was the name of an actual crime gang of the times, though the stories told in this series are by-and-large fiction.)
So far two seasons of this show have been produced, twelve episodes, all of which are available for streaming on Netflix.
Peaky Blinders is a very gritty and real. Birmingham, as depicted in the show, is a darkened hive of steel-making, shady commerce, brawling, and drinking. The fictional Shelby family have been controlling commerce and crime in the city since before the war. Tommy Shelby, the emerging leader of the clan, is focused on bringing the organization into the future and gradually making it legal and respectable. The show tends to put one in mind of the contemporary American crime family classic - Sons of Anarchy.
The sets are authentic and amazing, and the musical background is as dynamic as the action spilling across the screen. The music has much of the Billy Joel "Allentown" beat to it with hammer striking steel, and a strong sense of Tennessee Ernie Ford's "Sixteen Tons." It all weaves together nicely to transport viewers seamlessly back to Birmingham a century ago.
But historical trappings aside, it is Irish actor Cillian Murphy playing gang leader Tommy Murphy who makes the show. Murphy's Tommy Shelby, a decorated war hero, maims, and kills, and makes love with the greatest of ease, all the while keeping a laser focus on the needs and interests of his family enterprise. Murphy is an exceptional actor who has landed a role which lets him demonstrate his broad range of talents.
To glob onto a bit of the British vernacular, Peaky Blinders is a bloody good show!