UNDERBELLY – CRITICAL REVIEW AND BIBLIOGRAPHY

PRINCIPAL CAST AND CREDITS
Director – Tony Tillis directs Underbelly and adds to his workload this 13-part blockbuster.
Writer – John Silvester and Andrew Rule; crime writers of Leadbelly on which Underbelly is
based.
Scriptwriters - Greg Haddrick, Peter Gawler and Felicity Packard.
Producers - Des Monaghan - executive producer for Screentime. Screentime’s slate
includes “The Society Murders” and “Mary Bryant”.
Executive producer - Brenda Pam.
Co-producer and scriptwriter - Greg Haddrick

PRODUCTION COMPANY
Screentime - has produced “The Society Murders” and “Mary Bryant”.

CAST
Vince Colosimo plays Alphonse Gangitano. He is an Australian stage and screen actor of
Italian descent. He acted in “A Country Practice” in 1994. Also acted in “The Wog
Boy” which gained him attention.
Rodger Corser plays Detective Senior Sergeant Steve Owen. He has acted in “Last
Man Standing”. He also played Peter Johnson in “McLeod’s Daughters”.
Caroline Craig plays Detective Constable Jacqui James. She also acts in “Blue Heelers”.
Gyton Grantley plays Carl Williams. He has worked in “All Saints” and “Home and
Away”. He has many television and film credits, including “Fat Cow Motel.”
Kat Stewart plays Roberta Williams. She graduated in 1998 from the Australian
National Theatre Drama School.
Simon Westaway plays Mick Gatto. He is an Australian actor and voice over artist.
Martin Sacks plays Mario Condello. He is also known for acting in “Blue Heelers”.
Gerard Kennedy plays Graham Kinnieburgh. He is one of Australia’s most popular
and respected actors with a string of Logies to his name.
Kevin Harrington plays Lewis Moran. Best known for his role as David Bishop in
Australian soap opera “Neighbours”. He has also worked in “Blue Heelers” and “Sea
Change”.
Cullan Mulvey plays Mark Moran. Mulvey was born in New Zealand and is of Maori
heritage. He is well known for his portrayal in “Heartbreak High”.
Les Hill plays Jason Moran. In the early 1990s Hill starred in “Home and Away”. He is
known also for being the bouncer who removed Nierop from a hotel after he allegedly
assaulted a Narrabeen Sharks player.
Robert Mammone plays Tony Mokbel. Mammone has many television and film credits,
including “Sons and Daughters”, “McLeod’s Daughters” and “Water Rats.”
Caroline Gillmer plays matriarch Judy Moran. She is an Australian actor best known for
her various roles in television series such as “Prisoner” and “Neighbours”.

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE
13 February 2008.

COLLECTION OF INFORMATION
The collection of reviews and synopsis was relatively easy to do through the use of suggested
websites such as www.imdb.com and www.urbancinefile.com.au and another website www.underbellytv.com. Besides, the
Murdoch library databases, in particular the Expanded Academic database, were helpful. Other
websites that provided useful information included ninemsn.com which had a basic overview of
the story “Underbelly”. I found it difficult to locate interviews with the cast and crew because
“Underbelly” is banned in Victoria.

CRITICAL REVIEW OF “UNDERBELLY” AND  ITS LITERATURE
“Underbelly” is based on the book Leadbelly by John Silvester and Andrew Rule which
in turn is based on Melbourne’s infamous gangland killings that started in 1998
with the murder of Alphonse Gangitano. “Underbelly” also follows the rise and fall
of notorious career criminal Carl Williams, who sought to be the king of Melbourne’s
underworld. Thus, the film delves into the issue that crime does not pay as Carl Williams now
languishes in prison. The killing of Mark, Jason and Lewis Moran are deliberated and
condemned by a wholly conservative Victorian judicial system. The film also explores the
power of the Moran family as it shows how easily one could tip off the police if one
crossed the path of the Morans.

             In truth, the original story of the underworld figures has all the elements needed
for a very powerful film.  In this way “Underbelly” seems to capitalises on these elements -
thus turning out to be an unforgettable film. The main reason for “Underbelly” resonating
with the Australian public is the rise of Carl Williams. The film depicts the very moment
that Williams was introduced to guns. This year (2008) seems to be the year in which the
Australian film industry is set to shine. With the Nine network leading the way with
Australian dramas such as “Sea Patrol” and “Canal Road”, Australian films and, consequently,
its actors gain prominence. In fact, Gyton Grantley who plays Carl Williams in “Underbelly”
was mistaken by some underworld figures to be the latter. Grantley is just a few kilograms away
from physically immortalising Melbourne’s gangland kingpin Carl Williams. The film has a
fast paced organisation about it. Murders are carried out as if one was shooting at a
dummy. Grantley depicts the true nature of Williams as in one scene after shooting Mark
Moran, Williams is shown crying in the shower. Williams is depicted as a “big funk”.

            The only disappointing feature about “Underbelly” is the amount of advertisements
dividing the action packed drama. This tends to make people wait for the DVD. “Underbelly”
delivers punches of action as murders. Some are carried out in cold blood. This is
evident as Williams shoots Mark Moran after hiding in the bushes. The same goes
for the murder of the bouncer by Dino Dibra. It is disconcerting that after convicting Jason
Moran for the bashings at the club that he is already released by the time Mark Moran’s
funeral comes about.

            Bikers are also mixed up in “Underbelly”. The killing of Tracey as she slept with
her son was carried out by a biker and was in cold blood. This is saddening as the boy’s
father was in jail and one can imagine the trauma he would have gone through.

            Humour is used in “Underbelly” to make it appear as light viewing. For example,
when Detective Constable Jacqui James was monitoring Dino Dibra’s house, there was a
scene in which Dibra and Rocco were play fighting on the couch and James thought
they were having sex. Another example of humour which was ironically used was when
Richard the druggie was asked his name and he replied, “I’m Elmour Fudd”. Elmour
Fudd is a Warner Brothers character who carried a gun and who tried to shoot Bugs
Bunny. It was ironical that Richard died by being shot by a balaclava wearing
gunman.

THE DIRECTOR - TONY TILLIS
Tony Tillis’ choice of story of the Moran family seems fitting with his previous work as
director. But his role in “Underbelly” brought him new challenges as he admitted in an
interview, “This has to be one of the most exciting and challenging drama projects
ever shot in this country.”  Both “Underbelly” and his previous work, “The Society
Murders”, are of the crime genre. However, “Underbelly” is the most controversial
as it is banned in Victoria. But these two films have been well received. Even
through the ban “Underbelly” is far more widely viewed than “The Society Murders”.
Perhaps, with better direction of his actors and a willingness to use other scriptwriters - Tillis
can be foreseen as a prospective great director.

POSITIONING “UNDERBELLY”
“Underbelly” as a reflection of the general position of Australian cinema is an easy and
interesting study. While I do not have the exact box office numbers for “Underbelly”
it is evident that this film which has the most controversial content ever screened by Nine
is a box office hit. Though “Underbelly” can be seen as quite particular to Australia due
to its focus on historical events that raises the issue of crime does not pay - this is one
reason it does not achieve international success. The reason this film does not achieve
international success also is due to its local content i.e. the streets of Melbourne. The reason I
can suggest as a viewer that it meets local success is that it raises self-reflection after it is
viewed. Whereas audiences should leave “Underbelly” questioning their place within
Australia’s judicial system - the straightforward nature of the film allows the audience
not to separate themselves from the plot and thus the film has resonance. Thus
Australian crime genre films are popular at home.

“UNDERBELLY’ AS PART OF A NATIONAL AUSTRALIAN CINEMA
“Underbelly” is a film that is of course affected by it nature as part of an Australian
national cinema, and its status as a medium-size English language cinema. The main
characteristic of Australian cinema is its opposition to Hollywood. Hollywood
cinema is dominant both in the international market to which Australia exports its films
and within its own domestic market. In order to compete with Hollywood films Australian
films have to start out, yet not be too different. O’Regan suggests that Australian films
“...need to be similar to yet different from the high budget Hollywood product. Too
similar and the competition from the major Hollywood product is too evident ... too
different and the local and international audience can be alienated...” (O’Regan 1996
PP 96). In fact, Australian films compete with Hollywood, Bollywood and British films.
“Underbelly”, as part of Australian crime, attempts to be competitive domestically
and overseas. This is evident by its Australian and New Zealand cast. But as O’Regan
suggests the only way Australian films can be competitive is by being a ‘quality’ film.
By quality I mean “Underbelly” has a resonance and thus has succeeded domestically.

 

                                                  BIBLIOGRAPHY

McFarlane,B (2003) “Brain McFarlane considers crime films in Australia cinema”, Meanjin vol, 62 issue1.

O’Regan, T (1996) Australian National Cinema, Routledge, London.

O’Regan, T “Australian Crime Films”

The Urban Cinefile website www.urbancinefile.com.au; author- Andrew Urban

The imdb Website www.imdb.com

“Underbelly” website www.underbellytv.com

 Ninemsn.com