HBO Europe Launching Romanian Crime Drama 'Umbre'

Adi Marineci
Serban Pavlu as taxi driver turned mafia collector Relu Oncescu in HBO Europe crime series 'Umbre'

it's an adaptation of Australia's 'Small Time Gangster'

HBO Europe is to launch Umbre, a stylish Romanian adaptation of Australian crime series Small Time Gangster, with back-to-back episodes Dec. 28.

The 18-plus-rated eight-part series, which HBO Europe plans to roll out across its 14 central and Eastern European territories, plus the Netherlands, reflects the company's commitment to developing local talent, producers say.

Starring Romanian theater and film (Everybody in Our Famly) actor Serban Pavlu, as Relu Oncescu, a rugged family man and Bucharest taxi driver who leads a double life as a mafia debt collector, the show deepens and expands the storyline of the Australian series in a Romania context.

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Running at 45 minutes long, nearly double the 25 minutes per episode of the Boilermaker Burberry Entertainment original that aired for one series only on Australia's public Special Broadcasting Service, the opening episodes depict the the violent downward spiral triggered when a collection goes wrong and a man dies.

Antony Root executive vp original programming and production at HBO Europe, said: "Umbre is a unique and edgy gangster drama that combines great genre story-telling with moments of black comedy."

The double-feature, which premieres at 10 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 28 and airs the following seven weeks, features a "stellar cast" and a storyline that will enable it to be subtitled or dubbed for all HBO Europe's territories, Budapest-based vp original production, Wayne Henry tells The Hollywood Reporter.

"There are differences across the audiences, but crime sells and it sells internationally."

He added that HBO Europe hoped to roll it out across its territories and, depending on its reception in Romania, would consider a second series.

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Scripted by writer Bogdan Mirica,who also directs two episodes (in addition to series director Igor Cobileanski), the show created a genuine Romanian and Eastern European world that to which viewers in HBO Europe's territories can relate.

"Although I was inspired by Scandinavian and South Korean crime movies, a lot came from my experience growing up in a tough neighborhood," Mirica said after a press screening of the first two episodes late Wednesday in Bucharest.

"Crooks use sledge hammers, monkey wrenches, steel bars — anything to hand, which is so much scarier than guns."

HBO Europe will also offer special free previews of episode one on Dec. 24 exclusively on online service HBO GO, with episode two following on Dec. 28.

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