If the drab affair of Creation Stories taught audiences and author Irvine Welsh one thing, it is that dab hands in novels are not the same for scriptwriting. That Ewen Bremner-led piece was as sordid as Welsh’s work gets, but not put together correctly. It lacked the pace of the written prose and the subsequent adaptations that come from it. Apparently, Britbox did not hear of the car crash scriptwriting attempt Welsh was involved in and brought him on to adapt a piece of his later bibliography, Crime. A straight-shooting and soulful sequel to Filth, a book and film that relied on the wackier imagery, the wilder content found within and the distance it placed between regular police work and its protagonist.
Crime goes in the exact opposite direction. It ties itself so closely to the uniformed investigations that dominate the late-night slots that this Welsh piece can be considered no different to Line of Duty. Considering how unique a character Ray Lennox (Dougray Scott) was in Filth when Jamie Bell was at the helm, it is sad to see him moulded down into the usual status of “cop with haunted past”. Bruce Robertson (James McAvoy) was a cop with a haunted past, but that was truly nightmarish and the result of it was actions that reflected that. All Crime can do with its alcohol and drug-recovering copper is give him the occasional moment of emotion. Scott rises to that rather low challenge and at least turns in some decent work.
There is no escaping this feeling of caricatures, though. Lennox and Amanda Drummond come across fine enough but do not appear to have grown from their earlier continuity. Robertson may be absent but these characters have only aged and found their footing in a modern world that will age the reasoning, meaning and actions of coppers on the beat. Filth avoided that, and while it is unfair to compare the two, the contrast between these similar characters is too rough to handle. Gone is the snide charm of the book, the iron stomach needed to power through the work of Welsh is not needed as Crime begins to fuse into a cross between the early seasons of Line of Duty and Broadchurch. That is a recipe for success if one wishes to make a rather trivial and forgettable crime series, one that ITV would push through adverts and have audiences cling to and subsequently forget about when an equally similar project appears. Crime should be far more than that, especially considering the man behind the script.
Sinister characters provide solid red herrings in an adaptation that changes the pace, tone and pitch-black humour of the novel. Welsh should be the right man for the job considering he is adapting his own work, but in the process of stretching a miniseries to his limit, he removes the colloquial charm, the everyday idealism of coppers with problems coming together to get the job done. This doesn’t feel like a Welsh adaptation. It feels like a feat of endurance for the everyman, for those unaware of who Welsh is, how he writes or even who these characters are. It is disconnected from the mainframe, and it is surprising how distant a Welsh adaptation can feel when cut off from the source.