Hidden Assets (RTÉ One, 9.30 pm) is an Irish-Belgian-Canadian co-production and arrives on the screen as a bit of a slapped-together hodgepodge. It starts in Shannon with the arrest of a local drug dealer, then zooms over to Antwerp, where a fundamentalist Christian stages a suicide attack at a fashion show.
There are also drive-by shootings, a refugee floating in a water tank and characters delivering such Styrofoam lines as “have you been watching the news coverage of yesterday’s bombing?” and “no, I won’t calm down … this is not what I signed up for.”
So it’s a rather lumpy stew: bacon and cabbage with moules-frites poured on. And with the threat of maple syrup to follow: one of the Irish protagonists has, rather ominously, declared they have Canadian citizenship – so expect a North American angle to to be crowbarred in across coming weeks.
After the recently concluded Kin, it is also the second RTÉ criminal caper this year developed by former Red Rock writer Peter McKenna.
Kin had its problems and fell apart spectacularly in the end. However, it was considerably slicker than Hidden Assets, which, despite Thaddeus O’Sullivan’s measured directing, never quite feels as high-stakes as it should.
One problem is a plot that tries to cram in too many moving parts, including diamond smuggling, suicide bombings and west of Ireland gangsters in cahoots with Low Countries terrorists.
It does, on the other hand, have an engaging cast. Angeline Ball is Criminal Assets Bureau Detective Sergeant Emer Berry (a maverick cop she previously portrayed in RTÉ’s Acceptable Risk). Her crack squad of analysts includes Cathy Belton, Kwaku Fortune and Aaron Monaghan, all of whom do their best with the script that feels like the product of a Scandi noir algorithm
Over in Antwerp, we are introduced to Simone Kirby, playing Irish-Canadian businesswoman Bibi Melnick. She becomes a person of interest to Inspector Christian De Jong (Wouter Hendrickx) after it is revealed that she employed a Syrian women whose body was found in the apartment used by the suicide bomber the day before he blew himself up at a fashion event.
Kirby and the rest of the ensemble do their best. It’s a shame, then, the story doesn’t come into focus more sharply. The action opens with Berry and her crew raiding a boggy McMansion belonging to a gangland thug in Shannon. A hidden stash of diamonds reveals a connection to Antwerp. As does the fancy digs the gangster owns in Belgium. It turns out to be the same address at which the terrorist stayed before blowing himself up. And where the body of the women employed by Melnick was discovered.
Soon Berry is en route to Flanders, where she strikes up a bantering relationship with opposite number De Jong.
With CAB closing in, the the dealer panics and calls an associate to say he wants out. He gets his wish, though not in the way he had hoped. The scene in which he receives more he bargained for should, in theory, have us sitting up and gawping.
Alas, the opening episode is nowhere nearly as tightly cranked as it needs to be. A compelling international thriller may be waiting to burst out of this Euro-telly effort. For now it remains hidden from view.