16 June 2012 | RJBurke1942
Where things are not so straight with the Montebello family
Every society has its underworld and gangster aspects, many of which are portrayed in film and TV. The USA had its Godfather and Sopranos; the Irish with the IRA; the English with the Krays. And, who can forget the Italians and Russians with their mafias?
So, I was reminded of those precursors when series one of this look at the state of gang warfare in far north Australia finished on TV recently. With the help of Brian Cox – always a great heavy, in my opinion, as local 'mafia' boss Harry Montebello - portraying a long-time Pommie immigrant who runs a family of smugglers and murderers based in Cairns, this series presents a realistic panorama of events that show how family and blood ties matter, especially within the black community.
And given a surname like Montebello, it's not surprising that Harry is not a guy to be messed with.
The series also shows how parental guidance – and misguidance – shapes the offspring into a life of crime, bringing them to accept and work with it despite the obvious contradictions. Recall, for example, how Michael Corleone (in the 1972 Godfather movie) very readily resorted to violence and omerta when his father is almost assassinated by another mob. Montebello's sons take up a similar challenge when he is almost done in by an imported hit-man hired by a local Hell's Angels group. Or...was it the Hell's Angels?
So, the story line/plot here is not too much different to other great efforts of the gangster genre. What sets this apart, though, is the degree of distrust and internecine fighting that ensues after the attempted assassination of big Harry. How all that pans out is very entertaining and quite realistic, I think.
Of particular note is Harry's daughter, Sissi (played by Suzannah Bayes-Morton), as the squeaky clean apple of Harry's eye, and the one whom he trusts the most to succeed in her studies to lead a normal life. Well, apart from Sissi, Harry's got a few other surprises in store, especially about his sons, his wife and his lover.
But, it takes ten well produced and well acted episodes to reveal all of the shenanigans of this crowd of no-goods of the far north of Australia. As a piece of Australian culture, it's probably close to what could happen, given the context and circumstances.
And, for me, what is deliciously entertaining are the ironic twists that the writer, Louis Nowra, injects into this sordid tale of family woe. Indeed, there is a touch of Greek tragedy in the final episode that lifts this story into an arena I didn't expect: I'm actually looking forward to the next series.
June 17, 2012