DVD Review: The Syndicate (Series 1)

The Syndicate is not an English crime series. There’s no tales of mobsters working the underbelly of London with their cockney accents being more brutal than the beatings. The Syndicate is a five part miniseries about a group of co-workers who get rich quick without much effort. What’s the secret to their success? They pool their money and pick lottery numbers. The Syndicate: Series 1 reminds people that sometimes the last thing you need is overnight riches.

Things aren’t going great at Right Buy U convenience store in Leeds. Turns out the company has been bought out by a rival and manager Bob Davies (Harry Potter‘s Timothy Spall) gets to tell employees they’re being laid off as the store is being classified as redundant. As a going away present, the soon to be unemployed get to choose a bottle of gin or whiskey. The news couldn’t have happened at the worst time for Stuart Bradley since his girlfriend is about to have their child. She’s not happy at having to share a place with his brother Jamie (Matthew Lewis, best known as Nigel Longbottom in the Harry Potter films). The brothers conspire to get revenge by faking a robbery at the store in order to snag all the cash in the safe. The robbery seemed to be going right until Bob turned up. Jamie smashed a bottle over Bob’s head sending the manager into a coma. In the midst of panic over a fake robbery turning into a real attempted homicide, co-worker Denise Simpson (Lorraine Bruce) has great news. They all just won millions in the lottery.

There are immediate complications since one member was a bit behind in paying into the syndication pot to buy the tickets. They have to hope Bob is out of his coma so he can vote whether to allow the slacker member to get a share. The Bradley brothers live in fear since they’ll easily be the richest guys in Leeds’ jail if they can’t make the cops give up on finding the real robber. Jamie seems the less nervous of the two as he goes on a buying spree of fast cars and a nightclub. Denise dreams of using the money to win back the love of her recently estranged husband. Then there’s the curious case of Leanne Powell (Joanna Page). She doesn’t seem too happy at all the publicity that comes being an instant millionaire.

The episodes are geared so that each focuses on one of the winning pals. There’s a bit of Rashomon element with character-oriented flashbacks that gives more of the story. We learn that Jamie’s involvement in the robber does have a mobster element. The true star of the ensemble cast is Spall as he plays the winner with the most bad luck. When he gets out of the coma, he gets news that won’t let him enjoy his share of the jackpot. Spall gives a stoic performance with a richness to his steady attitude. He knows how to play the manager who can’t let his employees see him as disoriented or despaired.

Often in the news there are stories of co-worker that win the lottery. The Syndicate: Series 1 does a fine job exploring one group that goes from minimum wage to maximum pleasure. BBC One is airing a second series of The Syndicate, but it features an all new cast of lottery winners.

The video is 1.78:1 anamorphic. The transfer brings out the grimy charms of Leeds. The audio is Dolby Digital Stereo. The sound mix brings out the atmosphere of the Jamie’s nightclub. The episodes are subtitled for those who will get lost in the accents.

There are no bonus features.

The Syndicate: Series 1 is as additive as gambling. You think you’ll just watch one episode. But five hours later, all the episodes are gone. It’s a winner.

Acorn Media presents The Syndicate: Series 1. Starring: Matthew McNulty, Matthew Lewis, Timothy Spall, Joanna Page and Lorraine Bruce. Boxset Contents: 5 episodes on 2 DVDs. Released: April 30, 2013. Available at Amazon.com.

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