Wise head, hothead: Yann Gael and Issaka Sawadogo star as good cop, bad cop, in ‘Sakho & Mangane’
Wise head, hothead: Yann Gael and Issaka Sawadogo star as good cop, bad cop, in ‘Sakho & Mangane’ © Walter Presents

Good cop, bad cop. Stickler, maverick. Wise head, hothead. In this dynamically shot French-language crime series from Senegal, all the traditions of the mismatched buddy drama are punctiliously honoured. The years spent on the Dakar beat are etched on the sorrowful face of Captain Sakho. The last thing he needs is a new partner like Lieutenant Mangane: rowdy, disrespectful and not overly concerned with procedure. Mangane has been working undercover, infiltrating a crime syndicate; on their first meeting Sakho arrests him as a drug dealer. A chortling Mangane is pursued through the traffic-thronged streets of the capital, performs a perfect somersault over a vehicle, and is still cheerfully puffing on his ciggie when forced face down on the tarmac. 

Unsmiling Mama Ba (Christiane Dumont) is the new, hardline boss who can quell even the most rebellious detective with one glare. Her first conundrum is the murder of young Belgian ethnologist on an island sacred to the Lebu, and the related theft of a precious totem. The Belgian authorities want answers, while the islanders believe the pollution of a female corpse has angered the spirits. As Mangane himself is a native Lebu, it leaves Mama Ba with no option but to pair the cheeky young cop with the grizzled elder. 

The sombre Issaka Sawadogo and the balletically hyper Yann Gael as the title characters strike sparks from their first exchange. Mangane chafes at Sakho’s “old man methods”. ‘‘Imbécile!’’ rages Sakho in return. The search for the totem leads to an antiquities dealer who dabbles in fakes. As bodies pile up, a smart knowingness pervades the script. “This is like an episode of NCIS,” enthuses a colleague, while Mangane favours the phrase, “Hasta la vista”. By the way, the French for “You’re going down” is “Vous allez couler!” 

All we need now is an eccentric pathologist, and along comes zany Toubab (Christophe Guybet), who has turned his dissecting room into a death-disco with dim lights, music, a sweary parrot and narcotic drinks the colour of glow-sticks. Everything is shot with considerable panache by director/creator Jean Luc Herbulot, especially the hallucinatory extended sequence of a night raid on a gang hideaway, where thugs in skull-white Day of the Dead face-paint emerge from the gloom, and the laid-back score eerily fails to match up with the action. However deep their differences, the pair are united in a healthy respect for the supernatural, giving Sakho and Mangane a heady and distinctive flavour to match its stylish storytelling.

★★★★★

On All 4 from September 4 at 5.45am

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