Gangs of London: More violent than Peaky Blinders with insane fight scenes - Gareth Evans’ new TV series is not your usual drama

Created by Gareth Evans, Gangs of London stars Joe Cole as the new head of a criminal gang. Here’s why you should watch the new series, coming soon to Sky Atlantic with NOW TV.

By Sophia Moir Published: 7 April 2020 - 12.00pm
Sky UK Gangs of London key art
All episodes of Gangs of London land on Sky Atlantic with NOW TV on Thursday, April 23

Fans got very excited when the first trailer for Gangs of London was released - and now the nine-part series is coming soon to Sky Atlantic with NOW TV.

Created by Gareth Evans and Matt Flannery (The Raid), Gangs of London stars Peaky Blinders’ Joe Cole as Sean Wallace - who becomes the head of London’s largest criminal gang after his father is assassinated.

The series shares a lot of similarities with Peaky - but it’s not your usual family crime drama. In fact, with action director Gareth Evans at the helm, Gangs of London is probably one of the most violent TV series you will ever watch - with impeccably choreographed fight scenes.

Here's why Gangs of London is your TV must-watch this month.

1. It shares more than a few similarities with Peaky Blinders - but it's a lot more violent

Peaky Blinders star Helen McCroy (who plays Polly Gray) famously called the BBC One period crime drama so "disgustingly violent" in an interview that she actually stopped watching the Birmingham-based series.

Over its five series, viewers of Peaky Blinders have witnessed brutal violence and borderline sadistic murders by Tommy Shelby (Cillian Murphy) and the extended Shelby clan, as they do whatever it takes to rule the city post-World War I. 

But if, for any reason, you don't think Peaky Blinders is quite violent enough, Gangs of London will take that brutal violence up an almighty notch.

Peaky Blinders BBC One

And if you thought the trailer for Gangs of London - which features snippets of the fights and the aftermath of some barbaric assaults - was violent, the opening scene of Gangs of London is more brutal than anything that's happened on Peaky Blinders, and sets the tone for the entire series. 

But, like Peaky Blinders, the violent scenes in Gangs of London are interspersed with a real family drama. Where Peaky explored the dynamics of the Shelby family, Gangs of London introduces the Wallace family - who are grieving the assasination of the patriarch, Finn Wallace.

Speaking at the launch of the Sky Atlantic series, Joe Cole - who plays Finn's son Sean - said the way his character steps up to the plate following his father's death is explored in the show.

“Initially, Sean’s task is to find out who’s killed his father, and then as the show goes on he has bigger problems. Sean’s finding his feet in this adult world, [he’s] the privately educated son who has various levels of PTSD from quite a horrific upbringing in a gangster family. 

“He also wants to put his stamp on this world, and he has his own ideas. He’s smart, and he has his own way of doing things.”

Joe Cole Peaky Blinders Gangs of London BBC One / Sky UK
Left - Joe Cole as John Shelby in Peaky Blinders, and right, as Sean Wallace in Gangs of London

And if you recognise the name Joe Cole, that's because there's another Peaky Blinders crossover - Cole played John Shelby in the Bafta-winning drama. 

Cole told that the family aspects of the two series are similar, but that Gangs of London takes the drama up a notch.

“The similar thing is how it’s a gang and it follows a family at the centre of it, a crime family, so there are some similarities but I think it’s very new, fresh,” he said.

“I honestly don’t think that we’ve seen this in television before. I’m very excited for people to see it.”

2. Gareth Evans has ‘Gothamised’ London - so the city you're used to seeing on TV is unrecognisable

Gangs of London is a crime drama set in London, but don't expect to see the next Luther, Marcella or Top Boy.

Gareth Evans - who created the series alongside creative partner Matt Flannery - wanted to bring something new to the genre, so they set Gangs of London in a heightened version of London.

At the launch of the show, Evans explained: "We knew that what we didn’t want to do was make something that felt social-realist. We didn’t want to approach it documentary-style about real life crime on the streets of London. 

"It felt like that had been done, and done very well already. We wanted to bring something new to it, so we wanted to set it in a more heightened version of London."

Gareth Evans Getty

Evans and Flannery looked at London the same way they had looked at Jakarta, Indonesia, for The Raid films - from an outsiders’ perspective.

They decided to eradicate iconic London landmarks - the idea being that people wouldn't get the familiar feeling of it being set in the British capital.

"In the first episode of Gangs of London, when we did the big trackback against the city, our intent was to eradicate the landmarks and not make it feel like the London that people would know," said Evans.

"It just felt really interesting to us on an aesthetic level, to not do the tourist approach to the city but to create our own world."

Gangs of London Finn Wallace Sky UK

As well as doing away with the landmarks, Evans and Flannery used their own influences from the films they'd worked on in the past and brought them to this project - which has a Gotham City feel in parts.

Evans admitted: "Gothamising something has become a kind of shorthand for us being able to describe what we were going for. We were playing into some noir elements, we were definitely playing into my own influences from east Asian action cinema... It's very much a heightened world."

So don't be expecting to see arty shots of Big Ben or The Shard... 

3. The jaw-dropping fight scenes are impeccably choreographed

Gareth Evans has been called 'the greatest action movie director', with fight scenes from his movie The Raid described as 'the greatest martial arts fight scene ever filmed'.

So, naturally, there are a lot of fights in Gangs of London. But they're Gareth Evans-style fight scenes - jaw-dropping, impeccably choreographed, and a complete rollercoaster action ride.

One of the stand-out fight scenes in the first few episodes of Gangs of London is set in a local pub, a scene that wouldn't be out of place in a Guy Ritchie film.

Evans explained that it was something of an homage to the typical cockney gangster fights - something he wasn't able to take advantage of in his previous, Indonesian-set movies.

Gangs of London fight scene Sky UK

"For the fight [in the pub] with the ashtrays and the darts, that was kind of a wink and a nudge to the fact people will expect this to be a cockney gangster story, sort of thing, and to play up to tropes about what a British boozer is like. 

"But using an ashtray in a way you’re not quite expecting, that’s the dark humour side of me and the fun I like."

The pub fight scene is of course horrifically violent - this is a Gareth Evans TV series, after all - but in a way, it manages to be fun and entertaining too.

He said: "With the pub fight, we knew that was going to be more like a rollercoaster ride, so we wanted that to be fun and energetic. You can get dragged along with that sequence and enjoy it."

The same can't be said for all the fight scenes in the show, others of which borrow more from the horror genre - and as Gareth explained, are more "relentless and tormenting".

One of the characters who features in a lot of these fight scenes is Humans and Next of Kin actor Sope Dirisu, who plays Elliot Finch - a low-life chancer who finds himself transported to the inner workings of London's largest criminal gang.

Sope spent four 'really intense’ days’ filming the fight scene in the pub - alongside many more days filming the other fights in the series.

He admitted: "I wanted to experience what Elliot was going through... I had a willingness to put my body through stuff, but that doesn’t mean I have any coordination skill. For a month, my body did transform from this has-been to someone who could hold his own body in these fights."

Some of the more brutal incidents - like Elliot getting thrown across a room, which could cause an injury to one of their lead actors that might hinder filming - were Sope's stunt double.

Gareth Evans explained: "For us it’s always a challenge because the stuff I’ve done out in Indonesia is turning a fighter, a martial artist, into an actor. 

"This was a reverse - turning an actor into someone who’s physically capable of what we threw at him. 

“When you watch the bigger fights up there, throwing someone horizontally at a wall, we’d never use an actor for that, and it’s harder to ask them for a second take. But Sope is in there for 95% of the shots, and gave everything to it." 

Watch the Gangs of London trailer

All episodes of Gangs of London land on Sky Atlantic with NOW TV on Thursday, April 23.