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December 8, 2010
Underbelly: The Golden Mile Blu-Ray Review
Cinema Release Blu-Ray Release Distributor Director
20103/11/2010Village RoadshowTony Tilse
8 Episodes
Video Codec Sound Format OFLC Rating Star(s)
AVC MPEG-4Dolby TrueHD 5.1MA15+Emma Booth
Firass Dirani

The opening scenes of Underbelly Season 3.

Following two successful Underbelly series' there was much anticipation for this third outing, although the focus was to move from criminals, to corrupt police. With another all-star cast, high production values and plenty of promotion the series managed some impressive viewing numbers averaging over 1.7 million viewers over the 13 episodes. For Australia, that's massive numbers. Now only months after the TV airing the series is available on Blu-Ray.

Sydney, Kings Cross, 1989 The cops were bent and the crims were cool. And together they ran the most exciting street in Australia. Strippers, gamblers, gunmen, dealers, bouncers, bagmen - they all came to the Golden Mile. A smart and sexy young Kim Hollingsworth, smiling teenage Kings Cross identity Johnny Ibrahim, the Bayeh Brothers, Trevor Haken, Chook Fowler... the Golden Mile was their playground, and they played like there was no tomorrow. Then, in 1995, "tomorrow" came and the Wood Royal Commission cleaned out the Black Empire within the NSW Police. But it left behind a mess that took years of mayhem to bring under control.

The filmmakers have done an admidable job in covering another interesting aspect of Australia's criminal underground, but this time, with a large focus on corrruption within the police force and the resulting Wood Royal Commission. Admittedly the filmmakers have taken some artistic license with certain characters and events, but the series does actually give a decent overview of this very turbulent time in the New South Wales police force.

Emma Booth is superb as the prostitute and police officer Kim Hollingsworth in Underbelly: The Golden Mile.
Acting in The Golden Mile is quite superb. Emma Booth stars as the prostitute and police officer Kim Hollingsworth, Firass Dirani as John Ibrahim, Wil Travel as police officer Joe Dooley, Dieter Brummer as the corrup officer Trevor Haken, Sigrid Thornton as Geraldine Lloyd who was a member of the Royal Commission and Peter O'Brian as bookmaker George Freeman. These primary roles are all perfectly cast and portrayed. Of course I can't say if they're accurate to their real-life counterparts however they are certainly quite believable in their TV-screen form.

Other notables that make an appearance in the series include Natalie Bassingthwaighte (yes, the ex-lead singer from Rogue Traders, Ian Smith, Matt Day, John Waters, Rob Carlton, Paul Tassone, and Caroline Craig who reprises her role as the narrator. Any way you look at it this franchise has used some of Australia's most talented actors and actresses, and no one lets the production down.

While this third Underbelly series doesn't quite live up to the first or second series, primarily due to the lack of a character like Carl Williams or Terry Clark it's still a riviting production that focuses more on a corrupt police force rather then actual criminals (although I guess corrupt police are criminals). Still it's a riveting series well worth a look.

Sigrid Thornton as Commission investigator Gerry Lloyd.
Underbelly: The Golden Mile is presented on Blu-Ray in 1920 x 1080i resolution at the original 1.78:1 airing aspect ratio. The video quality here is solid, but rarely sensational. Having said that the TV series uses a wide range of visual styles, slow-motion footage, quick cuts, deliberate distortion and more and on that count the Blu-Ray transfer handles this variable video quality very well indeed.

The video bitrate is wildly variable from sub-10Mbps to above 30Mbps according to the PS3 unit we're running on. While the image looks a little soft at times and lacking fine detail there are other moments which are brilliantly sharp which leads us to think any deficiencies are either intentional, or to do with the source material.

As many of you may recall we had some pretty big issues with the audio on the original Underbelly in terms of the "flatness", particularly with the opening music. This third series doesn't seem to suffer the same issues, with the audio having quite a bit more impact especially during the many fights, or moments of gunfire. Surround sound channels are used on occasion but they certainly aren't getting the same love as the front channels when it comes to ambient effects. Perhaps, as a TV series, the rear channels aren't given priority but in ancy case it's a little disappointing. Don't get me wrong through the audio on this Blu-Ray is still very good, just not quite up to Hollywood standards.

In any case the Dolby Digital 2.0 track, with a 640kbps bitrate certainly sounds fantastic and as good as one could expect from a stereo mix. Each episode also has a third English Audio Descriptive audio option, again, each of which is encoded with a Dolby Digital 2.0 track encoded at 640kbps.

Dieter Brummer and Natalie Bassingthwaighte in Underbelly: The Golden Mile.
Underbelly: The Golden Mile has a couple of extras on the set which are worth checking out...

Audio Commentary Episode 1 & 2: Audio commentaries are provided for the first two episodes in the series on disc one. There is plenty of information provided regarding the characters, script and filming and its a good insight into one of Australia's largest TV productions. Those providing the comments on both episodes includes director Tony Tilse, producer Peter Gawler, Paul Tassone who plays Dennis Kelly, Firass Dirani who plays John Ibrahim, and Daniel Roberts who plays Jim Egan.

Deleted Scenes (22:16/HD): This extensive range of deleted scenes are in completed form and in HD and before they start the episode and scene numbers are listed so you have an idea as to where they would have fit into the storylines.

Behind The Scenes (23:46/HD): It's a little too much on the EPK side then I would have like but there are plenty of interviews and on-set footage which makes this worthwhile viewing.

Due to work commitments and holidays I never saw this series on TV so I went into this Blu-Ray set fresh. Again I was sucked into a criminal world which only becomes more gripping as the series progresses. Production values are high and this Blu-Ray transfer is impressive. If you liked the two previous series then this should also be on your list to check out.

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.