Subversive Cinema // 1995 // 197 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Neal Solon (Retired) // February 1st, 2006
"The best police force money could buy..."
Blue Murder has been called everything from the Australian Godfather to the original The Shield. Those are some big shoes to fill. Being a fan of both series, I had understandably high expectations. Unfortunately, Blue Murder's shoes seem to be made from some mildly buoyant form of concrete.
Career criminal "Neddy" Smith (Tony Martin, The Interview) is brought into the police station after a botched robbery attempt. He's big trouble, because he's already on parole. His options are limited. Either he goes directly to jail, or he becomes something of a henchman for Roger "The Dodger" Rogerson (Richard Roxburgh, Moulin Rouge), a decorated -- but secretly crooked -- cop. In return for his work for "The Dodger," Neddy gets a little old-fashioned "protection." Of course, relationships like this never end too well.
Blue Murder is unashamed to be an action-packed, lighting-paced police miniseries. Originally produced for Australian television, and based on the memoirs of a real-life Arthur "Neddy" Smith, the show spans over three hours. At that length and at its frantic pace, Blue Murder manages to cram in quite a few storylines, and more characters than one can manage.
As a portrayal of the trumped-up action side of police corruption, Blue Murder isn't bad. It's easy to follow what's going on when cops are chasing after bad guys and when people are being shot. As far as following what's going on behind the corruption, however, this presentation leaves a lot to be desired. One of the problems here is that the series frantically tries to cover the events of ten years in a mere three hours. The other problem is more unfortunate, and entirely technical.
In both the surround and stereo mixes on this disc, the dialogue is so low in the mix that I had to turn the volume uncomfortably loud to make out the words. Of course, the characters speak with Australian accents, but I consider myself fairly good at deciphering such things. The problem is that when people on screen talk below music, or below the people in a crowded room, or mumble something under their breath, syllables become inaudible. Watching a three-hour film while focusing almost solely on figuring out what is being said rather than on the broader film quickly becomes boring, and could ruin even good material. Why no one thought to provide subtitles is beyond me.
What makes this more glaring is that the rest of the audio track is pretty good for a ten-year-old, made-for-TV miniseries. The action scenes play pretty well, as do the natural noises in bars and on the streets. It's just that the essential noises get lost.
Beyond that, the biggest problem with the series is that I just didn't care what happened to any of the characters. Honestly, I can't promise that hearing what they had to say would have made any difference.
The video that Subversive Cinema provides fares better than the audio, though it's the aspect that the company preemptively explains on the packaging and at the beginning of the film. As a note in the DVD case and at the start of the film explains, Blue Murder was shot on Super 16mm. The different quality of the medium is apparent throughout the film. The image is very grainy and often appears older than its ten years, but in truth this doesn't detract from the presentation. In fact, grainy often equates to a grittier, cinema verité feel.
The folks at Subversive Cinema who opted not to bring us subtitles have, thankfully, provided a number of very solid extras. First is a feature-length commentary with director Michael Thomas and editor Bill Russo. Their conversation is detailed and varied enough to prove interesting even to someone less than smitten with the film as a whole. They do talk about specific scenes, but it's mostly about technical aspects of the filmmaking. Of course, the more than three hour length is a little daunting.
Next up is the twenty-minute documentary "Blood Brothers," which explores the real-life events that inspired Blue Murder and how the filmmakers got from these events and the participants' recollections of them to the miniseries before us now. It's an interview-based "making of" with a twist, because of the real-life drama at the outset.
Last in the line of big supplements is another interesting featurette called "Editing Blue Murder." Here we are given a philosophical interpretation of an editor's job, as well as a practical look at the editing of Blue Murder, by editor Bill Russo. While the featurette is quite interesting, it is ironic that it features a terrible and glaringly obvious edit that occurs just under four minutes in. If you're going to wax poetic about the wonders of invisible editing, at least double-check your work.
Finally, the extra features also include a handful of typical cast and crew biographies, a stills gallery, and a collection of Subversive Cinema trailers, including the trailer for Blue Murder.
I really wanted to like Blue Murder. I just couldn't. It's too frantic. It's not compelling enough, and it's largely incomprehensible. That's not to say you won't like it. Perhaps your ears are better than mine.
Ahkanteeryew. That's poorly mixed, un-subtitled Australian for "We couldn't collect enough evidence to come to a consensus." Consider this jury hung.
Review content copyright © 2006 Neal Solon; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Subversive Cinema
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 197 Minutes
Release Year: 1995
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Commentary with Director Michael Jenkins and Editor Bill Russo
* "Blood Brothers" Making-of Featurette
* "Editing Blue Murder"
* Cast and Crew Biographies
* Stills Gallery