E1 Entertainment // 2008 // 1704 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // January 6th, 2012
Wow...Who knew Australia was such a dangerous place to live? Sure, I knew about the poisonous snakes and the insects that want to eat you, but I wasn't aware of the drug wars that raged throughout the region for latter third of the twentieth century. That's right -- Aussie gangsters will mess your @#$% up!
I guess their police blotter never made it stateside, because I wasn't aware of Australia's lurid past. Thankfully, Underbelly has arrived to get us all up to speed. And let me tell you, fans of serialized crime drama, there is a lot to sink your teeth into here.
The complete series of Underbelly (also known as "The Trilogy") runs three seasons, with each logging in at 13 episodes. That's nearly 1,800 minutes of dramatized crime nonfiction.
Season One: A Tale of Two Cities
We start off in the swinging '70s, as drugs begin saturating Australia, their distribution controlled by mob boss Bob Trimbole (Roy Billing, The Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader) and New Zealand entrepreneur Terry Clark (Matthew Newton, Queen of the Damned). Clark starts out as a mid-level marijuana slinger, but the allure of the hard stuff -- and the buckets of cash that come with its dispersal -- becomes too much to ignore, and he soon corners the market. Meanwhile, the Federal Police work every angle they can think of to bring down Clark and Trimbole.
Season Two: The Golden Mile
It's the '80s and excess isn't relegated to the United States. The drug life has propelled an ambitious, two-bit thug into a high-stakes world of drug-dealing, battling the established Bayeh Brothers for control of the product flow. Meanwhile, we get an extended look at the other side of the law, as the authorities grappled with personal and political problems and their own corruption.
Season Three: War on the Streets
Still in the '80s, but the focus shifts to Melbourne, where an all out gang war goes down, with The Carlton Crew -- the most powerful crime ring in the area -- smack dab in the middle. Parallel to these events, up-and-comer Carl Williams (Gyton Grantley, The Reef) begins his power play. The cops continue to scramble.
That's a lot of storytelling. Honestly, if you're into crime sagas, you'll find plenty to embrace with Underbelly. It might take a few moments to equate the normally adorable and quirky Australian accent with violence, but give it time -- visions of Yahoo Serious will be replaced with memories of gunshots and stripper orgies.
Oh, the strippers! The packaging warns of the series' lurid nature, and it's true. This is TV drama you'd only find on stateside pay cable, with all manner of bloodshed, profanity, and liberal nudity (though "The Golden Mile" is oddly more restrained when it comes to the sleaze than its brethren).
Solid tech specs: standard definition 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen and 5.1 Dolby surround. Extras are sparse, limited to behind-the-scenes featurettes for "A Tale of Two Cities" and "War on the Streets," and a genuine newsreel segment about Carl Williams.
Not Guilty, mate!
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Scales of Justice
Studio: E1 Entertainment
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 1704 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Official Site