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Biggs kept out of the picture? Not quite!

Byline: Paddy S he n n an

SOME people's timing is just impeccable. By the end of Tuesday, I'd had the pleasure - mostly - of watching previews of The Great Train Robbery: A Robber's Tale and A Copper's Tale, ahead of their screening (BBC1, Wednesday and Thursday).

It was about time, I thought, that someone - in this case writer Chris Chibnall, of Broadchurch fame - had told it like it was.

It was about time that Ronnie Biggs was portrayed as the bit-part player and Johnny-come-Lately to the robbery that he was - and about time that most of the attention was placed firmly elsewhere. R

Then I woke up the next morning - the day A Robber's Tale was to be broadcast - to learn that Biggs was hogging the national news headlines, having died at the age of 84.

Suddenly, it was all about him a gain!

But back to the two-part drama (rather than the drama of Biggs's life and death) - and it was something which got better and better, with A Robber's Tale (Luke Evans did the honours as the mastermind Bruce Reynolds, who had bitten off more than he could chew) merely paving the way for the far superior A Copper's Tale.

While there were some rich evocations of early 1960s life and some strong performances in the opener, it generally seemed a little under-whelming and lacking in tension and meaty dialogue.

But, bit by bit, the groundwork was being laid for the future - much more interesting - battle of wits between the robbers and police.

It seemed like an uneven contest. Though they had managed to stop a train and snatch PS2.6m - more than PS41m in today's money - Reynolds and his mob made some schoolboy errors as they seemingly did their best to show that, not so deep down, they were cack-handed and amateurish.

On the other hand, the police investigation was handed over to the crack Flying Squad led by the obsessional Detective Chief Superintendent Tommy Butler.

And here we got to the real quality and high-interest point of the drama, because the mighty Jim Broadbent, as Butler, was by far the best thing about it - though he was given good support by Robert Glenister as Detective Inspector Frank Williams.

Despite an initial flurry of arrests, it took Butler five years to catch up with Reynolds - but this wasn't the end of the story.

And it was Biggs - who else? - who provided the postscript.


MEET THE GANG: Bruce Reynolds (Luke Evans) and some of his men
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Dec 21, 2013
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