Gangs of Galicia Series Review: A cliched crime drama that has its moments

Gangs of Galicia Series Review: A cliched crime drama that has its moments

In spite of its cliched nature, Tamar Novas’s acting and the attention accorded to interesting subplots make Gangs of Galicia quite watchable in the overall scheme of things
Gangs of Galicia (3 / 5)

Roger Gual’s Gangs of Galicia (Clanes, in the original Spanish) is a fairly engaging crime drama, once you take away some of the storyline’s cliché elements. While the acting is natural, it is the writing that falters. Its primary flaw is that it feels like you’ve seen something along these lines before. A successful big city lawyer quits her job and travels to a small town to get to the bottom of her father’s murder, accidentally getting involved with the drug lord’s son while attempting to tie the family to the killing. Not the most ingenious idea out there, surely. Even the surprise at her own actions (how could she possible lose sight of the end goal?) and all the resultant inner turmoil are done-to-death.

Creator / Director - Roger Gual

Cast - Clara LagoTamar NovasXosé Antonio Touriñán, Melania CruzFrancesc GarridoMiguel de LiraNuno GallegoMaría Pujalte, Tomás del EstalChechu Salgado  

Streaming On - Netflix

The town of Cambados in Galicia, Spain, serves as the centre of all the action. The notorious Padin family rules the roost with their booming illegal drug trade. Lawyers and cops have been on their payroll for years, making it hard for law enforcement to put an end to their operations. Nothing that happens there escapes their notice. Patriarch José Padin (Miguel de Lira) is now in jail owing to a rat within the ranks. Owing to his sheer influence, he manages the business from prison, with his son, Daniel (Tamar Novas), at the reins. Daniel’s cousins, Nilo (Xosé Antonio Touriñán) and Toño (Chechu Salgado), head the planning and logistics along with the latter. It’s smooth sailing for the most part, with trusted informants at every nook and cranny (including at sea, where most of their shipments change hands). Meanwhile, in Madrid, successful lawyer, Ana (Clara Lago), has just lost her father to a shooting. The unexpected murder of a man who used to run short cruises in his speedboat in Galicia raises suspicions. Ana’s hunch is that her father is somehow connected to Padin’s network of drug-running, and that his killing isn’t random. On a whim, she quits her job and heads to Cambados to get to the bottom of things.

This trope of infiltration without losing sight of the end goal, and still developing complicated feelings for the man who may well be responsible for your father’s death, is the issue here. Such a scenario could well be possible. It’s the unimaginative way in which it is portrayed that’s the problem. If you’re going with a predictable theme, at least ensure that it is executed in a way that’s a bit beyond the norm. If not, you’re likely to get lost in a sea of such content readily available. The acting alone (which is of a good standard) cannot make up for this, nor should it. The writing has to raise its level. Daniel’s character is sketched the best in the series, offering the most nuance. Tamar Novas balances the burden of enjoying what he does (the rush of evading authorities while being his own boss in the illegal drug trade) without being happy about the violence that comes attached to the said profession. He exudes good guy charm even though he is the de facto head of the notorious Padin family. There is an unease in his manner about the sustainability of it all, and he expresses feelings about making a run for it when the time is right. José is more in the mould of the vengeful mafia boss, and this doesn’t quite sit well with his son’s conscience. It is indeed complicated to fit into the man’s shoes, and Novas’ fine role shows us just how much he is grappling with. Clara Lago’s Ana is a bit disappointing, in comparison. Her main objective is to tie the Padins to her father’s murder to exact some form vengeance, but she gets involved in Daniel’s charms (and representing the family legally) too soon. Most of the time she’s seen jet-setting with Daniel in his plane, driving his sports car and having luxurious massages on his dime…all while he “explains” the business and where her lawyering needs to fit in. She falls naively for his good guy act without paying heed to her true intentions, it has to be said. Her character, the lead no less, is one-dimensional, and how. We understand that Daniel may not necessarily be someone who subscribes to his father’s strong-arm tactics or general philosophy, but there are high chances he’s connected to the murder. What of that?

Despite the somewhat predictable nature of the show, the supporting characters and the interconnected subplots are rather engaging. Especially the ones involving the relationship between the young Marco and Maria (the former is Daniel’s nephew, whom they protect from the business, and the latter is the “snitch’s” granddaughter, the snitch being a former associate of José Padin who was responsible for his prison sentence) and the complex ties to their shady families. In the current timeline, Maria’s grandfather has disappeared, with her mother and grandmother under constant threat from the Padins. Marco’s grandfather has just passed away, having supposedly buried millions of Euros in a field, with his two sons in Nilo and Toño sniffing around for the jackpot. Obsessive senior detective Naranjo (Francesc Garrido) hunts down the family, with little time or consideration reserved for his neglected wife. These stories within the larger framework are certainly a highlight of the series. While the primary plot itself may be lacking, it is these mini narratives that impress.

If you’re willing to look past its clichés, Gangs of Galicia can be appreciated for several moments. Tamar Novas’s acting, Marco’s desperation to join the business, Maria’s family’s crooked ties to the Padins, and the police team’s many frustrations in gathering requisite evidence to indict the drug kingpins, constitute a majority of them.

Cinema Express