Shown just once to my knowledge in 2009 I must admit I couldn't recall all that much of Gunrush beyond its Broken Britain plot of a grieving father, played by Timothy Spall, tracking down the hoodies who shot to death his daughter just days earlier. It's a plot that is rather reminiscent of James Coburn's final movie, 2002's American Gun; a fact which was I know was running through my head when I watched it. Perhaps it was because of such comparison, that I was ultimately disappointed in Gunrush, but I'm not altogether sure now. So, it's rewatch time - maybe I can provide a clearer picture as to why it left me feeling so meh, and why it hasn't been repeated.
Well, a quick look online tells me that Gunrush lay gathering dust on a scheduler's shelf for a couple of years before its broadcast in 2009 - never a good sign. With that ignominy in mind, it's perhaps not surprising why I believe it hasn't been repeated either. It's a real shame though, because this had a very strong cast – Spall, Deborah Findlay, David Harewood and Paul Kaye – and kept a firm hold of the political hot potato of urban gun crime and the ghettoisation of council estates in inner city areas. It could have been the intelligent alternative to Harry Brown, but instead Richard Cottan's script wavers between offering up a realistic storyline and an infuriatingly stupid one.
It starts out encouragingly. I particularly liked how David Harewood's character met Spall's comment that the youths who had murdered his daughter lived 'just up the road' on the estate with clear derision; "They're not from some other planet" he scoffed. "They're us. They're you and me" Finally, you think, a drama that actually appreciates that criminals are not some specific breed apart from the rest of us. These kids, dabbling with drugs and running in gangs, are just the same as everyone else, except they haven't had the same breaks and they are shaped by totally different dispiriting experiences.
Naturally it's a big and downbeat grim storyline, depicting a young black male pulling a gun on a young middle class white female teenager and killing her and the blind rage and grief that single devastating act inflicts upon the girl's surviving family. So its a real shame therefor that from such an incendiary starting point, Cottan wimps out on bringing his story to a plausible conclusion, taking it to a final reel that is just as silly as any other kind of Death Wish/Harry Brown scenario. I actually didn't have that much of an issue with Timothy Spall's human doormat becoming a would be vigilante who, when faced with the youth responsible and with the very gun in his hand, contemplated bloody revenge, no not at all - the problem I had was in the ridiculous manner the story removed itself with a single shark jumping leap from the avenue it had taken Spall down to wrap the tale up with no ramifications whatsoever. It didn't help either that the director clearly felt the same way, either consciously or subconsciously, and framed a shot of an anguished wailing Spall against a wall on which you could quite clearly see the word 'RUBBISH'.
There was a germ of a good idea here, especially when it was revealed just what brought about the tragedy that occurred, but it got lost long before the final credits rolled - and that is why, despite Spall's reliably strong performance, Gunrush has returned to the vaults to collect dust.
If you want to see for yourself, it's on YouTube.