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December 7, 2010
Underbelly: A Tale of Two Cities - Uncut
Blu-Ray Review
TV Release Blu-Ray Release Distributor Director
20093/11/2010Village RoadshowVarious
Video Codec Sound Format OFLC Rating Star(s)
AVC MPEG-4Dolby TrueHD 5.1MA15+Matthew Newton

Matthew Newton stars in Underbelly A Tale of Two Cities.

Following the massive success of the first Underbelly which made names such as Carl Williams, Mark, Jason and Judy Moran, Mick Gatto, and Andrew "Benji" Veniamin household names it was clear there would be a sequel, but how do you do that when pretty much the entire cast from the first series was killed off? The answer for the producers was to turn to another era and another criminal organization.

Underbelly: A Tale of Two Cities is based on real events from 1976 to 1986 and tells the story of how two men, Aussie Bob Trimbole (Roy Billing) and Terry "Mr Asia" Clark (Matthew Newton), changed the face of organised crime in Australia by masterminding the large-scale importation and distribution of heroin into Australia. For Trimbole and Clark, the success of their 'Organisation' is dependent on Clark's charm, the contribution made by his lover Allison Dine in recruiting the drug couriers, and a network of corrupt NSW Police and judiciary. And for a time, they get away with murder lots of it, starting with the assassination of NSW politician and anti-drugs campaigner Donald Mackay.

Underbelly Season 2 is on Blu-Ray now.
Despite his recent personal issues there is no doubt that Matthew Newton is a wonderful actor and his performance in this 13-part TV series is superb. Also impressive is veteran actor Roy Billing who is superb as Aussie Bob. When this series aired on TV I do recall an interview with him in which he stated this was one of his hardest roles as, from what I can recall, his son died of a drug overdose many years previously. Finally Anna Hutchison is superb as Terry's love interest and main drug courier Allison Dine. I can only hope she picks up some bigger acting roles in future.

While the characters in this TV series aren't quite as interesting or memorable as those in the first series with the likes of Carl Williams and the Moran family this second series still tells an interesting tale which will have you hooked. It also seems production values are a little higher in this series, perhaps it was lavished with a higher budget following the success of the first series. A worthy follow-up which is worth checking out.

Facing the gun...
As with the original series Underbelly: The Tale of Two Cities is presented on Blu-Ray at the series' original 1.78:1 aspect ratio and at a 1920 x 1080i resolution using the AVC MPEG-4 codec. While it's a little disappointing the series isn't presented in 1080p it's fair to say that this series is very impressive looking and certainly has some very high production values. Indeed the image is remarkably sharp with the finest details shining through. With both discs one and two containing five episodes each with runtimes exceeding three and half hours on each it's an impressive feat while the third disc include the final three episodes and a special documentary.

As many of you may recall we had some pretty big issues with the audio on the original Underbelly primarily to do with the bass levels in the introductory music. That issue seems to remain here, but doesn't quite seem as evident. For a TV series the production values are extremely high, and that extends to the audio experience too which, while often very front heavy, there are also moments when the surround sound channels kick in, there is great use of music, and the dialogue remains crystal clear.

Other audio tracks on this disc include a Dolby Stereo 2.0 track encoded at 640kbps, while an Audio Description track encoded in Dolby Digital 5.1 at 640kbps is also included. Each of these tracks is likely to impress for those that have the need for them. The release also has a subtitle track which is positioned and coloured according to the person talking on-screen.

Terry Clark and Aussie Bob...
There is only one extra in this Blu-Ray set and it can be found on the third disc...

Behind the Scenes (46:46/HD): Despite the plain title this is a documentary which looks at the creation of the franchise, with input from Channel 9 boss Eddie McGuire, the creation of the storylines, filming on-set and the use of guns and weapons, nudity, and the filming and editing style. All-in-all it's a comprehensive look at the making of the series, and well worth checking out.

Underbelly: The Tale of Two Cities Uncut is a great Blu-Ray release which includes a 13-part miniseries which is almost as engrossing as the original series. Matthew Newton and Roy Billing are superb and this second series is certainly one worth checking out as well. The transfer is very good, and we certainly recommend the Blu-Ray version over the DVD release.

Review By: Dave Warner


Note: All images in this article are Copyrightę Village Roadshow. They are only indicative of the movie and not sourced from the vastly superior Blu-Ray disc format.