Crime drama ‘Amsterdam Vice’
Crime drama ‘Amsterdam Vice’ © Pief Weyman

A lengthy one-take scoot through a grimy squat, with inhabitants peeing, bathing, shooting up or just sitting around, is a distinctive way to open a crime series. Especially when it’s followed by a choppy sequence enacting swift, violent retribution on the same individuals. They were just so disobliging when the landlord politely asked them to vacate his valuable property on one of Amsterdam’s canals.

Meanwhile, detective Judd Cox (Waldemar Torenstra) turns up for work hoping to make a good impression on his new partner. Strait-laced Judd has recently arrived in the city from somewhere called Urk, which causes his colleagues great amusement. Tonny Montyn (Tygo Gernandt, demonstrating Bob Geldof levels of dishevelment and brusqueness) attempts to explain to the newbie how they run things in “the biggest pissbucket in the Netherlands”. Specifically, don’t stress about drugs or sex; Tonny’s on first-name terms with every madam and prostitute in the red-light district.

Before long, Judd is jumping out of windows trying to out-parkour an absconding perp. Naturally, they both end up in a canal, where their wild thrashings bring a sodden corpse bobbing to the surface. At this point, Tonny’s second commandment comes into force: detectives do not bother fishing out dead drunks. That’s what the uniformed officers are for.

© MartijnvanGelder@studioISA*

But those squatters. What have they got to do with the price of tulips? It’s 1980 and less than a week to the swearing in of Queen Beatrix. Violent radicals have obtained a seating plan for the New Church, showing where the “Crown Prince of England” among other dignitaries will be located during the service. As Tonny is too well known around town, it’s down to Judd to infiltrate the squatters’ HQ, accessorised with spiked hair, leather jacket and a punch in the eye for that authentic battered look.

Suddenly, square Judd has become rather hot, a development not lost on Tonny’s sister Jean, who’s been leading the rebels in a snappy chant of “No habitation, no coronation!” As the ceremony edges closer, her announcement that vengeance will soon come, “maybe not today, tomorrow or the day after” is ominous.

Retro touches include wide lapels, the traditional chase through a restaurant kitchen and epithets for homosexuals used as cheery banter. I don’t remember the lighting being that bad in the 1980s, though. It’s almost as dim as Tonny’s view of women and squatters. Torenstra and Gernandt spar mightily as the mismatched cops, and their antics are enough to put a wide smile on your face. That is, until an explosive turn of events signals a switch to a more sombre mood.

★★★★☆

On Channel 4 from March 7 at 11pm and All4

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