The name of this double-pack is slightly misleading, but that is not to suggest the film and television mini-series on offer are in any way bad. Quite the contrary, in fact. It’s just that they aren’t exactly “action” films per se. So don’t pick this up hoping for something in the vein of The Road Warrior. Instead, these are brutally intense dramas with strong action elements. Both titles are excellent.
Metal Skin is a 1994 effort from director Geoffrey (Romper Stomper) Wright. He returns here to the world of youth subculture. Here, instead of Skinheads, this is a world of underground races, but the denizens are just as doomed as in the earlier film. The main character is a disturbed young man whose dreams of driving a fast car and forming a romantic attachment are utterly deluded. He has a fraught relationship with a trio, each of whom has his/her own reasons to see the world as a black hellhole. When the car-duel climax arrives, it is earned at the emotional level, and makes the likes of The Fast and the Furious look even more anaemic than it already is.
Blue Murder is 1995 television mini-series that apparently caused quite the stir when it aired. Based on real events, it’s a strikingly violent gangland tale, with the distinction that the gang in question is the police force. Richard Roxburgh is Roger “The Dodger” Rogerson, an officer so irredeemably corrupt he might have stepped out of a James Ellroy novel. The story ranges over a decade, as we follow Rogerson’s career of evil. The series is based partly on the memoirs of straight cop Michael Drury (Steve Bastoni) and professional criminal Arthur Smith (Tony Martin), and much of the action is seen through their eyes. Raw, gripping stuff.
In both cases, the auduio comes in the original 2.0 and a new 5.1 mix. This difference is academic in the case of Blue Murder, which might just as well be mono, given how surround effect there is. The mix has been criticized elsewhere for burying the dialogue under the music, but I can’t say I found that to be a problem, though Martin’s opening narration is a bit hard to distinguish. Otherwise, the Australian accents and slang will have many North Americans wishing for a subtitling option. Metal Skin, on the other hand, does benefit from the shift to 5.1, which really turns the track into a roar. Both music and revving cars surround the listener and pummel him/her into submission.
Subversive wisely pre-empts complaints about the picture quality of Blue Murder by pointing out that it was shot on Super 16, and that this image is about as good as it is possible to get, given the circumstances. So, inevitably, grain and a softness of picture are very noticeable, but this does add a certain convincing grit to the proceedings. Metal Skin, by contrast, looks purely terrific, with no grain, and blacks and contrasts that are nothing short of astounding.
Both films come with commentary tracks, a making-of featurette, trailers, a still gallery and cast and crew bios. The featurettes and commentaries are informative, particularly at the level of how the films actually came into being. Metal Skin additionally has a 57-minute short feature called “Lover Boy,” which was Wright’s first film. Though the case promises an intro by him, I certainly couldn’t find it. But the case does have a special bonus in the form of the film’s soundtrack CD.
Though this set might not quite be what some people might expect when seeing the name “Aussie Action,” what it consists of is just plain superb.