Reuniting Life On Mars’s Philip Glenister and John Simm, and also starring Max Beesley and Hustle’s Marc Warren, Mad Dog's foursome play a group of old friends in their 40s. They arrive at the uber-luxurious Majorca home of their old friend Alvo (Ben Chaplin) for a week’s holiday. But, as is apparent by the opening home video messages to loved ones showing them bruised, battered and defeated, they are in for the week from hell.
The first episode (Thursday, February 10 at 9pm on Sky1) nicely establishes group dynamics and reveals the varying ways in which the holidaying boys lives have gone awry. These failures are flaunted in their faces by Alvo, along with his wealth as he shows them a good time. Released from the responsibilities of home, middle age is resisted in a futile attempt to recapture youth. Tensions rapidly emerge, until Alvo launches into a tirade intended to deliberately provoke. This makes for uncomfortable (and slightly unrealistic) viewing, until his rant ends in a murder involving the best use of a latex mask since Point Break.
Episode two sags slightly, but as events including drug stashes, infidelity and dismemberment spiral out of control the viewer comes to care about the characters’ fates. Trust issues surface along with paranoia. These suspicions aren’t helped by the appearance of local cop Maria, who unnerves the group further, in a sexy and humorous portrayal by Maria Botto.
One very striking aspect of Mad Dogs is colour. The incredibly bright blue sky on display almost hurts your eyes. At first, the hyper-bright palate is appealing, but it soon adds to a feeling of an alien landscape that enhances the men's discomfort. Continual shots of creepy crawlies in the savage sun are a cheap trick, but they enhance the sense that life is fragile and can be snuffed out brutally.
As their relationships implode in spectacular style, there is some great ‘meltdown’ acting from all involved. A tense siege mentality soon prevails, along with some black humour and kooky situations. (The show is not above featuring a ‘comedy dwarf,’ but it’s used to great effect here). The use of music is fantastic, and there’s a nice line in absurd humour.
Mad Dogs definitely owes a large debt to Shallow Grave, but that’s no bad thing. It’s essentially a drama about male friendships and facing up to reality. However, it’s not overwhelmingly blokey, as vulnerability is lurking very close to the surface. Mad Dogs is a cracking thrill ride that is definitely worth taking.