Giri/Haji, BBC Two (4 stars)

Giri/Haji, BBC Two

Subtle humour and cultural clashing make this new crime drama a hit

With the viewing public's addiction to crime fiction not going away anytime soon, we're always on the lookout for a bigger and better hit. After years of gorging on Scandi crime, we've become accustomed to watching detectives delve into foreign underbellies; but in many ways, their cultural mores are very similar to ours.

So it's with no little excitement that we greet the arrival of Giri/Haji (Duty/Shame), which not only delivers on the crime/intrigue front, but also introduces us to a whole new police force, family life and customs. When Tokyo cop Kenzo (Takehiro Hira) welcomes members of the Yakuza into his apartment, the heavies wait expectantly for slippers to be provided before entering the room. Having climbed out of a London taxi, Kenzo turns to nod his respect to the driver, who has already sped away looking for his next fare. Touches like this give Giri/Haji an extra layer of cultural gloss.

Crime-wise, the offering is fairly standard: mob families taking revenge on one another for killings with an ever increasing tit for tat. What's less obvious is Kenzo's involvement in it all. He's a good detective (and a good dad to his troubled daughter, good son to his ailing parents, and good husband to the woman who has to look after them all: or at least he tries to be) but his wayward little brother is the cause of all this Yakuza friction, and his morals are torn.

I'll confess to my heart sinking when the action switched from Tokyo to London, so enjoyable it was to glimpse the dark side of another nation. But the arrival of Will Sharpe as rent-boy Rodney soothes the pain, as he lights up the screen with caustic wit and inner vulnerability. Even more than Kelly Macdonald's ostracised British cop, Sharpe is the perfect counterpoint to Hira's quiet and measured Kenzo. As the episodes progress and the waters become more muddied by an Eastern European crime network, it's the cast and their subtle humour (particularly on the Japanese side) that keeps you hooked.

Episodes watched: 3 of 8

Giri/Haji starts on BBC Two, Thursday 17 October, 9pm.

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