There is a sleek chicness to “Criminal Record,” an engrossing British cop thriller on Apple TV+. It pulls from lots of well-worn formats but reconstitutes everything into its own chilly terrazzo, sometimes to exciting effect.
Oh, sure, it’s hard to make room in one’s heart or viewing schedule for yet another dirty cop who does things his way — but he gets results, damn it! Would you believe he has a troubled daughter whose antics further tie him to the seedy side of things, that he is both a dangerous guy and a loving but suffering father? How about a righteous female cop who takes her cases a little too personally, going so far as to endanger herself as a sublimation of the dissatisfaction in her domestic life? Ever heard of layers? Hmm?
But luckily “Criminal Record” is a little trickier than that, fleshing out familiar setups with tense vitality. Peter Capaldi fills Daniel Hegarty, a detective chief inspector, not with the leather-jacket intensity of most police dramas but with a patient, scary wisdom. Cush Jumbo taps into Detective Sergeant June Lenker’s panic more than her professionalism. Aggression, enmity and maybe even predation are often the dominant themes in a cop show, but here it is wariness. Watching the show feels like watching a snake, its gliding undulations mostly moving side to side but actually propelling the story forward.
The action begins when Lenker gets a tip in an emergency domestic violence call. A woman says that her boyfriend is going to kill her, and that he’s killed before and gotten away with it; another man is in prison for the crime. Lenker figures out that it is one of Hegarty’s cases, and despite repeated admonishments to let it go, she can’t stop herself from digging into everything — the identity of the woman on the call, the conviction at issue, Hegarty’s slipperiness. Hegarty and Lenker are suspicious of one another’s motivations, and both are aware of the genuine politics and the less-genuine political optics of their conflict: An old white guy with a network of cronies up against a younger biracial woman who wants to expose his misdeeds. “Are you familiar with the term ‘unconscious bias’?” Hegarty asks Lenker at one point, reveling in his little moment of irony.
The push-pull of multiple investigations is more interesting than the at-home plotlines for either detective, though there are a few rich moments and shining fights. When Lenker’s husband complains that everything he says is under a microscope, she’s incensed. “Then say better stuff!” she shouts back.
There are eight episodes of “Criminal Record,” and six are available now, with new episodes arriving Wednesdays.