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Getting Fast Money for a ‘Clean Break’
May 23, 2016  | By David Hinckley

As a business plan, kidnapping so rarely works out.

But that doesn’t always deter the desperate, and desperate seems to describe Frank Mallon (Adam Fergus, top, second from right) in Clean Break, an Irish TV series that makes its U.S. debut Monday (May 23) on Acorn TV.

Like many overseas series, Clean Break is really what Americans would call a miniseries. It runs just four hour-long episodes. Which can often be a good thing. We can get a whole story without committing weeks of appointment viewing or several days of binging.

Frank was a successful businessman until now. His car dealership is running on empty, with few customers and an overstock of inventory on which he owes more money every day.

It doesn’t help that his wife has apparently left him to go live on the Isle of Man, and his teenage daughter Corrina (Kelly Thornton, top) seems distracted and on the brink of bolting herself.

Actually, that just makes Corrina a fairly normal teenager, but it’s not what Frank needs, particularly when the local bank manager Desmond “Desi” Rane (Aidan McArdle, top, far right) starts pressuring him to start paying down his substantial loan balance.

Faced with what a Bruce Springsteen character once described as “debts no honest man could pay,” Frank enlists unpleasant local thug Noel Blake (Ned Dennehy) to seize Desi’s wife Annette (Simone Kirby) and daughter Jenny (Amybeth McNulty) and hold them for ransom.

Frank sees this as a poetic justice in addition to easy money. What could possibly go wrong?

Meanwhile, back on the non-criminal side of the law, Frank has hired a well-known local boxer, Danny Dempsey (Damien Molony, top, far left) to shoot some ads for the car dealership. They get friendly enough that Frank asks Danny to go along on the kidnapping and make sure that, you know, no one gets hurt.

Who could say no to an offer like that?

So Danny goes along and naturally the deal goes south, opening multiple new trails of trouble for Frank and now a lot of others.

For one thing, it eventually comes out that Danny has been dating Corrina, which is more information Frank didn’t need.

Given all these lurches and missteps, Clean Break could have either gone to screwball comedy or to darker, bleaker places.

In the early stages, it seems to be borrowing some of its tone, as well as some of its plot, from the movie Fargo. Then it takes a darker turn and, sorry, that’s all the spoiler we can provide here.

Clean Break doesn’t give the viewer a quick handle on what’s happening, because it takes a while for the character lineup to sort itself out. But as things do fall into the place, the writing and acting are good enough so we have a sense of whom the characters really are.

They aren’t all bad people, which comes as a relief, though most everyone does bad things to some greater or lesser degree.

Writer Billy Roche was nominated for an Irish Film and Television award for the script, which never tips its hand on where this dreadfully botched operation will leave its principal players.

But it’s pretty clear all along that if you need money fast, consider kidnapping only as a last resort.

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