The Millennium Dome Heist with Ross Kemp review – turgid true crime with TV’s top hardman

  • london
  • November 11, 2020
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Following his well-worn formula, the ex-EastEnder somehow stretched the straightforward story of a plot to steal £350m of jewels into an hour-long programme

Ross Kemp outside the Millennium Dome, now The O2 Arena.
Photograph: ITV

Recipe for one hour of ITV presented by Ross Kemp. Ingredients: one headline story from between five and 20 years ago. Ten minutes of contemporary footage and necessary links and explanation. 50 minutes of padding. A handful of police officers who have never before spoken about the events. One Ross Kemp. Method: mix well. Garnish with hyperbole. Serve raw, shamelessly and repeatedly.

Ross Kemp. Darling heart. Never in the history of human entertainment has one man been cast so wrongly in so much. Unless it’s Saskia Reeves as a cockney sparrer, and honestly, we really must talk about that sometime. Kemp survived nearly a decade of the most operatic of soap storylines as Grant Mitchell in EastEnders (a PTSD-suffering soldier, domestic abuser, cuckold, murder suspect, you name it, Grant was it) despite having a slightly smaller emotional range than Wellard.

Since then, he has carved himself a career as TV’s top hardman despite, as the years advance, looking more and more like a particularly friendly chimp. It’s like we’ve all been engaged in a collective delusion since he first appeared in a leather jacket in 90s Walford and are now too invested to back out. There must, surely, come a point at which someone – maybe from the younger generation who hath not drunk too deeply from the waters of E20 – points out that the emperor has no clothes. But! That day is not yet here, and so we can kick back and enjoy the big man’s latest outing: The Millennium Dome Heist with Ross Kemp (ITV).

This is the story of the Millennium Dome heist. Presented by Ross Kemp. It tells the story. Of the heist at the Millennium Dome. If you don’t like. This manner of. Address. Or are ever bored by. Repetition. I suggest you do not watch. The Millennium Dome Heist with Ross Kemp. Or. Indeed. Anything else to which. The phrase. “With Ross Kemp”. Is appended.

You may not remember the Millennium Dome heist. That is because it was 20 years ago and not very interesting. A criminal gang ran a digger and some hammers at some jewels and were caught. But that was before Kemp and his producers got in on the act. Now! It is! “The story. Of the end of an era. In British crime.” Nowadays, people just steal TikToks and the bitcoins, you see. But back then, children, back then – ah, you had to steal a JCB and arrange a speedboat getaway up the Thames if you wanted to make your fortune. You had to plan, in short, “one of the most audacious gem raids the world had ever seen”. Which, once the team had exhausted the thesaurus for synonyms for “theft”, was reconstructed for us in minute detail.

Minute, but alas not vivid, for most of the places where the action occurred have long since been dismantled and/or repurposed. God forgive me, but when Kemp stopped near a grey girder in a junk-filled corner of what looks now to be a barely used underground car park to show us where the diamonds were located – “close to one of the iconic yellow tent pegs. Not yellow any more, because it’s been insulated because of fire regs” – you would have to have had a heart of stone not to laugh. Likewise at his assertion that: “It was a gangland robbery that defined the millennium age!” Or the description of the gang’s target, in case the explanation of it as “the second largest flawless white diamond in the world” known as the Millennium Star wasn’t clear enough, as “the Mona Lisa of diamonds”.

The 10 minutes of actual story came mostly courtesy of the various police (AKA “armed units”, “elite squads”, “just pure actual erections in body armour!”) who were responsible for mounting the huge covert operation necessary to catch the career criminals, after months of surveillance, in the act of robbery in order to secure convictions and without endangering the public. “We didn’t want any runners with guns,” said one, evoking more in one sentence than the rest of the hour combined, “because they’re fleeing 20 years.”

In the final scenes, Kemp unveiled the twist – the diamonds had been replaced before the thieves struck! That’s right, knowing that a robbery was planned, De Beers didn’t leave £350m-worth of jewels in place to add an extra frisson to the whole thing, but shoved some glass replicas in there instead. Kemp stood next to the real digger as he told us. So that. You know. Was something.