Stephen Graham plays against type in this silly and very British reimagining of RoboCop, which starts with plenty of potential.
This recap of Code 404 Episode 1 contains spoilers.
Stephen Graham plays hard, tortured men, and he’s very good at it. He’s perhaps better at it than any other British actor, which means his casting as DI Roy Carver in Sky One’s ridiculous reimagining of RoboCop is kind of a joke in itself. He’s still a relatively serious copper here, but he’s often opposite Daniel Mays as his long-time partner DI John Major, who is shot dead while undercover in a drugs bust and returns as an “augmented” super-cop whose rewired memory immediately latches onto TV chef Heston Blumenthal as his potential shooter.
That’s the joke, you see. Graham’s playing straight against an idiot who thinks he’s better than ever without realizing that he’s barely hanging together; he’s the classic British buffoon, but in all the trappings of a near-future cop drama. As it turns out, Graham’s exasperated scouse whine is perfectly suited to the kind of reactions Code 404 requires of him, and he’s happy for the show to send-up not just the obvious materials but also the kind of roles he usually plays, such as when his emotional reverie at Major’s grave is interrupted by Major himself.
This presents another problem, though – Major has been dead for a year, and in that time Carver has shacked up with his wife, Kelly (Anna Maxwell Martin). He’s living in the house that Major assumes he’ll be moving straight back into, and their smart fridge tells Roy to enjoy his wine, which Major is too stupid to notice. This will inevitably produce some highlights.
Also a laugh: While pursuing a lead on who shot him, Major ingests a huge quantity of cocaine in a drug dealer’s house, believing himself to be immune to narcotics, then goes crackers at a sting and attacks Carver for being in on his death – his only evidence is that Carver asked him to wait in the car and felt guilty about his death. This means that by the end of Code 404 Episode 1 Carver is also incapacitated, though he doesn’t get the sci-fi treatment.
Daft and fun, and with a smartly-chosen cast plucked mostly and knowingly from Line of Duty, Sky has produced a likable effort in Code 404. Hopefully, it continues to zip by and provide some light entertainment across its six episodes. Stephen Graham could probably do with the break.
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Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.