Mad Dogs is a TV show that ran for four seasons (the fourth being just a 2-parter epic finale) between 2011 and 2013, starring Philip Glenister, John Simm, Marc Warren, and Max Beesley, all good friends in real life. It’s a gangster action/psychological thriller with dark humor. There are 14 episodes, and it is structured more like a 14-part film than a TV show, with one running plot and cinematic film quality. (Amazon remade the series for America with the same creator, Cris Cole, still at the wheel.) Season 1 is on Blu-Ray (which means it’s region-free). All 4 seasons are on DVD region 2/PAL. The seasons are available separately, but the box set is on amazon.co.uk.
Mad Dogs is the story of four friends in their 40s who reunite for the first time in years in Spain to meet their fifth friend Alvo. When Alvo is murdered in the first episode, their lives are changed forever. They find themselves inexplicably wrapped up in a world of gangsters, drug dealers, secret military bases, and undercover CIA agents. But as much as it’s an intense action crime drama, it’s really a story about aging. They came to Spain and reunited with their childhood friends to recapture their youth because they’ve hit a roadblock in life. “It’s like one minute, you’re looking forward to everything,” says Quinn (Philip Glenister), “and the next, you’re looking over your shoulder.” The emotions and decisions these four are faced with can be seen metaphorically as something almost everyone goes through when they approach middle-age. When things change dramatically after you thought you’d settled into what was going to be your life, there’s no roadmap, no one to ask for help, just isolation, confusion, and fear. As fun as the action scenes are to watch, what’s really interesting about Mad Dogs is watching the characters unravel.
Mad Dogs is without a doubt a high-quality production. Fantastic writing, both in plot structure and clever dialogue. The pacing is a great balance between emotional turmoil and fun punch-em-up/shoot-em-up/chuck-shit-around/spray-your-friends-with-a-fire-extinguisher scenes. The acting is phenomenal across the board. The humor is sickeningly delightful. The cinematography is unlike most other shows you’ve seen, with the lens effects and beautiful landscapes, plus allowing the characters to look into the lens, which throws the viewer off balance. It makes you think about your own life and the way the world works, both corporeally and spiritually. That said, it’s not for everyone. As high quality as it is, I’m not sure everyone in the world can stomach seeing a CIA agent’s brains get blown all over the front of the car, followed by a scene driving down the road, blood streaked down the front window, completely silent except for the comical squeak of the windshield wipers. But if you can handle that, then Mad Dogs is highly, highly recommended.
Jaime Pond is the editor of Anglonerd. She lives and works in NYC. For both season 1 and 2 of Mad Dogs, she watched the full seasons in one sitting and then immediately watched them all the way through again.
Originally published Feb. 19, 2014