TV review: The Rack Pack, BBC iPlayer
BBC's first feature film for iPlayer charting the life of snooker legend Alex 'Hurricane' Higgins
A drama set in the world of snooker during the 70s and 80s might seem like a dull premise for BBC's first exclusive iPlayer full length feature film. However this was a golden age for the 'sport' and the greats of the green baize. A tragic love letter to the troubled genius that was Alex 'Hurricane' Higgins, snooker's first rockstar.
The Rack Pack chronicles how snooker turned from a game played in dingy back rooms to a national obsession, focussing on the rivalry between Higgins (Luke Treadaway) and Steve Davis (Will Merrick). Their styles and personalities couldn't be more different. Higgins was a party hard, boozy, flamboyant maverick whereas Davis was methodical uber nerd who helped usher in a new era of professional; technical players (with the help of manager Barry Hearn, played by Kevin Bishop).
Higgins' entire heart and soul was wrapped up in every game. As one character puts it he specialised in 'kamikaze snooker'. He became his own worst enemy, each lose hitting like a bullet, dragging him into a blizzard of alcohol, frustration and depression. Unsurprisingly his game and marriage suffering as he drunkenly stumbles through later matches.
Treadaway captures the ups and downs of this tragic talent even if his Northern Irish accent wavers from time to time. Merrick also deserves praise for his controlled portrayal of Davis. It's difficult to avoid a plethora of sports movie clichés but what's most impressive is the quality of this iPlayer exclusive. This isn't some throwaway tosh that has been consigned to an online dump bin. Proper actors, strong performances and solid direction, the camera swooping and diving around the table adding a new level of dynamism to matches (particularly a Higgins vs Jimmy White 1982 semi-final). With the imminent demise of BBC Three's terrestrial presence in February hopefully this is a demonstration of Auntie's continued commitment to future online content.
The Rack Pack is available on BBC iPlayer from 9pm on Sunday 17 Jan.