STUDIO: Subversive
MSRP: $34.99
RUNNING TIME: 197 min.
Photo gallery
Talent bios

The Pitch

“It’s The Shield in the 1980s… in Australia!”

The Humans

Richard Roxburgh ( Mission: Impossible 2, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen), a vast number of Australian blokes and Sheilas

The Nutshell

Roger “The Dodger” Rogerson (Roxburgh) is one of the most legendary detectives in Sydney, notorious for his lack of tolerance in dealing with the criminal element. He’s also one of the most corrupt gentlemen on the force, inducting hardened crook Arthur “Neddy” Smith (Tony Martin) into his shady ranks as an underworld conduit and giving him “green light” to commit crimes without repercussion. Complications arise when honest undercover narcotics cop Michael Drury (Steve Bastoni) refuses a bribe from Rogerson, who then endorses a more ballistic persuasion. Unfortunately that doesn’t quite go as planned either, and the subsequent investigation tosses a wrench into Roger and Neddy’s devious little empire that ultimately leads to their downfall.

"Hey, you brought the veal! Slather some Stubb’s Mesquite on that critter and toss ‘im on the barbie!"

The Package

For a television miniseries few in the US have probably even heard of, Subversive has assembled an impressive amount of treats. There’s a 25-minute featurette with current interviews with Roxburgh and the filmmakers tracking the production and the controversy surrounding it, a commentary track with director Michael Jenkins and his editor, talent bios, a photo gallery, trailers, and even a poster and some lobby cards in the package. The fullscreen picture looks pretty good, considering — the show was shot on Super 16 (as noted in the DVD case and at the beginning of the film) and improved for the new transfer, but retains the intentionally grainy feel. There’s also a remastered Dolby 5.1 audio that’s much clearer and slightly more active than the included 2.0 track, but is significantly lower in volume – I’d forgotten I had cranked the receiver dial to 60 until I popped in the second disc and was startled by the deafening gunshot that begins the menu (thought the Feds finally found me!). The only notable deficiency is subtitles – that Aussie dialect can get a little murky. The package presentation is flagrantly appealing to fans of The Shield, but it’s a perfectly valid correlation.

"That’s right, I AM hollow! I feel no love, nor fear, nor joy, nor sorrow! And my bitches explode! You really wanna argue about it?"

The Lowdown

Based on true events, writer Ian David and director Michael Jenkins have put together a rather riveting, decidedly vicious cop drama. Actually, it occasionally reminded me of a Down Under police variation of Goodfellas, and not just the levels of intensity and profanity and colorful associates (like a hitman nicknamed “Rent-a-Kill”) – as soon as someone becomes a liability, they’re swiftly removed from the playing field in an often messy manner.

Long before traveling to Hollywood and gnawing the environment in Moulin Rouge and Van Helsing (and, well, just about every other major film he’s been in since Blue Murder), Roxburgh possessed an Alec Baldwin level of charismatic smugness that was perfect for a cocky decorated cop with his fingers in some illegal pies. Rough and ready Martin (sort of an Aussie James Caan) is equally excellent as the lifetime thug given a whole new sandbox to play in – it’s fascinating to watch him go from common felon to sanctioned gangster. The entire cast is effective, keeping the extensive web of deceit and corruption well within believable limits and making for some compelling cop misconduct years before Chiklis and his strike team hit the money train.

8.5 out of 10