Underbelly (TV Series 2008–2013) Poster


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Reality imitating art imitating reality
ruhi-yaman9 March 2008
It is called the Australian Sopranos. There are two problems with this tag: Underbelly is not as good as Sopranos and, unlike Sopranos, it is all too real.

I am a Melburnian. I have worked in Carlton for seven years. Most of the members of the Carlton Crew were familiar to me, although I have never met any of them. Alphonse Gangitano was often referred to as the Robert de Niro of the Lygon Street – not after the actor, whatever his real personality is, but after the characters he played in films like Goodfellas and Godfather Part 2. It was obvious to all that have known him that Gangitano was imitating art and this was true for the rest of the so called "crew". On the other side of the non-existent proverbial fence were the suburban kids that had not known a life without violence – Dino, Benji, Carl… Melbourne has been mentioned more than once in the past decade as the 'most livable city in the world. It cannot be too far from the truth. It has the most of the charms of the best cities of the globe – from New York to Paris to Barcelona – without their accompanying woes. It also has a dark side, as dark as anything that you would find in Detroit, Marseilles, or Bangkok. Between 1994 and 2005, this alter ego of the city crept into surface of the cultured, intellectual and tolerant Melbourne. True to the title of Bugsy Siegel's biography 'they only killed their own' (mostly) but they did in broad daylight, in front of children, suburban mothers and 'more than innocent'bystanders. One of the safest cities in the world was suddenly in the spotlight as one of the most violent until the forces of the light (played by the detectives of Purana task force) put a stop to it.

What we know is that most of these hard men who lived as if there was no law, no rules, no morals and no tomorrow, also lived life as if they were actors in a movie. The news footage of the funerals (and there were more than two dozen of them) could as well have been taken from the episodes of Sopranos. They idolized the likes of the fictional characters in films such as Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, Goodfellas, Godfather trilogy, and Sopranos, because this is what drug dealers, bank robbers and career killers do between 'jobs', workouts and fornication: They watch films. It was life imitating art imitating life. Those, like me, who watched the whole scene unfolding in front of them (I used to live in the apartment building that was 200 metres from the club where Lewis Moran met his end) with a fascination bordering on the perverse, wondered about the price of real freedom. Were these men really evil or were they simply more courageous than the rest of us? Perhaps, they were both… My middle-class friends looked at me with expressions ranging from surprise to disgust when I posed the question to them, only half joking.

Underbelly is a flawed series in a number of ways. Producers' insistence on choosing actors both with local popularity and a striking resemblance to their real-life counterparts takes its toll on the quality of the acting. It is, to say the least, uneven. So are the scripts… Way too much emphasis on fornication, after the point is well made, and too much pondering on the popular taste formed by our, now world-famous, serials: Neighbours and Home and Away.

Let me assure the viewers foreign to the current affairs of fair Melbourne: All the public incidents in these series have really happened and their recreation is eerily similar to reality.
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Not Bad At All
wildlime26 February 2008
i thought this might be quite rushed. However I disagree with other comments here..

Each episode drags you into the underworld of the famous gangland killings in Melbourne.

I really like that Caroline Craig narrates. At points in this drama it does make you feel quite upset and also sad.

There are a lot of familiar faces if you have watched Australian TV/movies before.

I am currently up to episodes 8 and it's getting better with every episode.

I think it takes a few episodes to get into it.
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Freakin awesome
droambi12 April 2008
As a rule although I love many an Australian actor I usually hate the writing/production. Underbelly has changed all of that for me and I'll be revisiting some other Aussie dramas that previously I've written off. The acting is great, the soundtrack is really great, the writing makes the whole story easy to follow. I'm seriously impressed and can't wait to see the last few episodes. I've got the book and the mini series is fairly accurate, but it's important to remember that this is a dramatization and not a doco so some differences are to be expected. roberta is a crack up. alex dimitriades as Mr T, hooooooooot. Dino Dibra, wasn't until I looked on here and saw he was on h&a that I figured out who on H&A and why he was so familiar, very impressive. you *SHOULD* watch it.
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Underbelly - fantastic
myspunkyone1 April 2008
Just wanted to respond to some people's comments on how bad Underbelly is, well it completely hooked me in! I was quite hesitant at first because I often don't go for Aussie dramas, but saw half of the first episode by chance and am officially addicted.

Others have been saying it's like watching an episode of Neighbours, well maybe that's because so many of the actors in it had their starts in Neighbours or Home and Away. That's not to say the acting is as bad as in these soap operas. I was pleasantly surprised with the actor's abilities and portrayals of the characters. I was impressed with how many of the actors looked very similar to the people they were portraying.
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As good as or better than any American drama. From a Canadian's perspective.
face-819-93372628 February 2014
Warning: Spoilers
Just started watching this one this week. I have started at season 1 even though I hear you don't need it to be able to enjoy the new series. This show is so well made though, I am exceedingly impressed more with each episode I watch. There is just this building story that is getting bigger the more new characters we are introduced to. If you have seen the Shield, and the Wire already, then this should be your next stop.

Added March 03 2014 - If Season 1 is like the Sopranos, then Season two was like Miami Vice meets Life on Mars. Season 2 is a complete prequel, and it is just as good if not at some times better than the first. The addition of Anna Hutchison, and that Farrah Fawcett hair, and the charismatic Matt Passmore from The Glades (before The Glades)I would call season 2 the "pretty years".

Added March 18 2014 - Season 3. For season 3 we are simply following season 2 from the late 80's into the mid to early 90's. and we follow once again both the good, and the bad people of Sydney. This season is very drama/action oriented and it is all about the "Golden mile" the downtown strip of Sydney where there always seem to be 2 rivals working to sell drugs on either side of the street, while police corruption finally meets it's match, and the people who try to make a living just getting by are shown coming, and going. This season is not as flashy as season 2, but it is just as gritty. We get as usual some very brilliant women who are just as key to the story as any man with the story of Wendy Jones the Mother of the Detective who's daughter will be one of the mighty forces from the first season, and of Kim Hollingsworth The girl who comes to Sydney with a dream of joining the force, but keeps getting forced back into the life she only wanted to try out.

Added March 21 2014 - So season 1 was the Sopranos, and 2 was Miami vice, the 4th season is Boardwalk Empire, except because it is Underbelly, and Australia, the power players are the women. Kate, and Tilly. These women were the real players in Sydney for years, and as usual this season only covers about a decade, but is is quite an active one compared to the first 3 seasons as you can tell in the fact that it takes the first 8 episodes just to get through the first 3-4 years. The acting in this season is just as good as any of the past 3, and though there is far less death, when the razors come to play it really is a new ball game. It took me a couple of episodes longer to warm to this season, but in the end I may have Enjoyed it more than the others so far. Also the narration has continued with Caroline Craig doing a great job, and the wrap up at the end is extraordinary. I would bet money that "Big" Jim Devine actually thought he was running things. (he reminds me so much of my own uncle)

Added March 22 2014 - Yeah they are shorter seasons from here on looks like. Like climbing a mountain, you will eventually reach the top, and have to descend, but that does not mean that the view becomes any less spectacular, or in this case the story acting, and depth. Season 5 we are in yet another decade of a Sidney based view of the good, and the bad, this time around it is 2001-2012 and now that there are only 8 episodes it goes just a little bit faster(though at time it feels repetitive as they will have a specific flashback referenced more than once in an episode). The cast this season is made up of Jonathan LaPaglia who most will remember from 7 Days as the evil, and Matt Nable does a great job playing the dedicated Good cop. This was really the first season that did not reflect really any police corruption, they spoke of Chook in an argument, but that's as far as it ever went. So as I mentioned this was shorter, though I hope I have made it clear that you will not end up with less, in fact the fact that this is more contemporary made things feel more real. the wrap and dedication brought me to a misty place, and I never thought when it started I would end up really caring for Frank, but Aaron Jeffery just plays him so human. Nice.

Hunt down UNDERBELLY it is from Australia, and you can easily compare it to the best from any other country in the world. You will not be sorry. Surprised a lot, and given to fits of laughter yes, but not even the slightest bit sorry. Find it, Watch it, Share your opinions.
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Each episode feels like a mini saga of its own.
gavindonnelly729 January 2013
I really can't say enough good things about this show. Each season we are introduced to a whole new cast of characters and series of events spanning over roughly a decade for each series. The show does a beautiful job of spanning over several years without feeling like anything is rushed or left out. Each episode feels like a mini saga of it's own, with new challenges and conflicts facing the characters that it focuses on. We watch characters grow from amateurs to professionals in a matter of episodes and it all feels very real. Also, as we see at the beginning of each episode, it is all based on real events. A quick search on the Internet will reveal that almost all characters and events are very close to their real counterparts. I could go on about the attention to detail in the story lines and the the top notch acting all around but you should just watch and see for yourself.

Note: I'm writing this review having just finished watching season 3 of Underbelly, which is unfortunately the last season available to me on Netflix here in the U.S.
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Underbelly Under Review
Richardm77711 April 2008
What can I say about 9's Underbelly? Best Australian TV show of the decade, so far, for a start. Unlikely to be out done. Channel 9's Underbelly is the most significant piece of Televisual cinematic art to grace our tube's since Blue Murder. Comparable to a hyper active season of The Soprano's, it is a major classic series that depicts the 25 or so murders of the Melbourne gangland wars.

At the center of the series is Carl Williams character/ real life OG, played portly and excellently by Gyton Grantley. William's is given an interesting character arc, starting as a lowly Moran driver and slowly moving into producing his own Ecstasy tablets and cornering the market by under selling the competition. Into Williams life comes Roberta, played with a bravora performance by Kat Stewart. She is a gutter mouth shrew who eggs Williams on to bigger crimes and higher times. Together they are the crazed heart of the show. A suburban Bonnie and Clyde. They are completely mythologized in the show. The real Carl and Roberta Williams say they were nothing like the pair, but it doesn't matter too much. The on screen pair are classic gangster characters, reborn, Melbourne style late 90's... in tracky daks and pushing prams, while planning hits.

I should say apart from a few small minor bad apples, the show is exceptionally well cast. Vince Colosimo was born to play Alphonse Gangitano and gives a great opening to the show. If only we could have seen more Vince, but as we all know the Gangitano murder sparked off the war, so he bows out early in his designer suits and tassled loafers. Les Hill and Callam Mulvey nail the Moran brothers... all old school gangster machismo and violence. They are the old power in Melbourne that Williams is out to overcome and then silence after they shoot him in the gut fatefully one afternoon. Kevin Harrington is truly superb as Lewis Moran, he looks and acts just like the real deal from news footage. As an aging gangster in over his head and torn apart by family tragedy, Harrington is excellent. Damian Walshe Howling is central also as Benji Veniaman, a hit-man with divided loyalties. Kind of like a better looking Scott Ryan from The Magician, Benji is a major catalyst in the war with the Carlton crew. The Carlton crew are led (in the show!!) by what appears to be its Godfather Mick Gatto (another great thesp turn by Simon Westaway, capturing the Gatto mannerisms and front). Gatto is the mysterious man at the top of the Carlton tree. An old school gangster, with style and a peace maker, essentially. The violent war shocks him and he does his best to cool the heads of the younger hooligans. Westaway's Gatto is a man of cool respect and one on one Violence only... in the Benji confrontation scene. He is the foil to Williams wild colonial E dealer. Side kick to Gatto is Mario Condello, spot on portrayed by Martin Sacks in probably his best role yet. Condello is a loan shark and money man forced into the big chair of the Carlton crew when Gatto is arrested for Benji's shooting and on the run from William's endless supply of hit men. Throw in an amazing ensemble, see cast list and you have gangster gold.

Add to all this mayhem from the characters above the Keystone cops of The Purana task force. The best character is Steve Owen, who wants to bend the rules to catch these guys and stop the war and murders. Rodger Corser plays Owen as an edgy cop ready to go toe to toe (if anybody would let him) with William's and crew. You wonder why he wasn't allowed to? Indeed, the accusation of the Police sitting around and letting these crims bump themselves off seems somewhat validated in the show. Many scenes where the Police know a hit is happening but fail to swoop on suspects until after the alleged murder (due to some unbelievable technical difficulty) are shown here. Sort of making them accessories of sorts (by incompetence, generally) in the crimes they are trying to stop. Frankie Holden's Detective Butterworth is a short breed eating 'by the book', discombobulated by events head of Purana and Caroline Craig's Jacquie James, is the perfunctory female cop, ala Blue Heelers, narrator and moral compass.

Its a damn shame it can't be aired on 9 locally.

The shows direction has been criticised by friends and while I agree it could have been more cutting edge... that could have made it Internationally brilliant, as good as The Soprano's. The direction is competent and pretty good Oz TV work, moving the story ahead, superb casting as mentioned and lively use of cool Aussie music, etc.

I must say the show is actually meaningful. Has real content. It is profound in its portrayal of Williams as a young upstart good guy, who is slowly corrupted by ambition, his wife, drugs, legitimate threats on his own life and other issues. Even when he becomes a killer he still is a nice guy to friends and family, generous and caring with money, etc., this all makes the Williams character sympathetic. After he is shot in the park by Jason Moran, Williams appears to go a bit 'postal'. He soon escalates the cycle of violence for which the real Williams is now serving his 35 years. But you can't help feel bad for the Underbelly Williams. If he wanted to succeed and stay alive in his chosen profession, could he have acted otherwise? The journey of Williams in Underbelly is one of the more profound Australian tales in many a moon. It resonates, it mostly true from the base facts of the case. Highly recommended Oz TV. Hunt it down overseas readers.

Review by MUFF director Richard Wolstencroft
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Dare I say it? Yes! The Australian Sopranos.
chrichtonsworld24 February 2008
The connection between Sopranos and this series is not far-fetched. Like that show it shows a life of crime and how these gangsters deal with their family. After having seen five episodes more depth is shown and it gets real clear that things will get very nasty indeed. The acting by the cast is superb. And it was good to see Calvan Mulvey (Heartbreak High) return in a much more mature role. What I liked especially in this show that it doesn't exactly choose sides. It is not just about the police getting the bad guys. They also show that even the gangsters have their morals and aren't entirely evil as most people would have us believe. But it doesn't glamorize the life of crime either. When necessary it does show the impact of the crimes committed. Excellent show!
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Brilliant blend of drama, comedy and realism
penguin-6010 June 2008
This is no easy subject to film and is still restricted in its distribution in Australia due to possible legal issues. I found it excellent. The cast is necessarily large and the acting exceptional. The gangsters really look evil and the blend of drugs, excessive sex and violence gives a chilling insight into this nether world of gangland culture. It is shot on location in Melbourne. The case is well known locally and despite it being a dramatization it runs more like a real life fly-on-the-wall documentary. For me it out Sopranoed the Sopranos and is one of the best gangster films Australia has ever produced. See it if you can. I watched all 13 episodes straight through!!
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Fantastic series. Couldn't be better.
sagaranand-er14 November 2008
I loved watching every episode of the underbelly series. The moment you finish one episode, you cant help yourself but to start the next one. Amongst all the characters being played my favorite was Alphonse Gangitano played by Vince Colismo. He was too good. The series picks up momentum again with the introduction of Benji. I loved performance of Gyton Grantley throughout the series portraying Carl Williams. I recommend watching this to all. In all it is a great fun.The series is like a ticking time bomb and gets you involved with every episode. Though a lot of characters were in and out at short intervals, my personal opinion is the characters of Alphonse Gangitano, Jason Moran, Carl Williams, Roberta Williams, Benji were portrayed very well.
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First four seasons were like a full throttle ride, Season 5 ran out of steam
emuir-121 November 2015
Watching the first four seasons of Underbelly was like a fast ride full throttle. Everything about the fast cutting, the pacing, the music, the freeze frame identification of new characters with whimsical captions, was an exhilarating ride, reminding me of a 13 hour MTV video. This series had a STYLE like nothing I had ever seen before! The slightly skewed reality resembled European films I have seen. As each season appeared, I felt they could not get any better, but they did. I particularly enjoyed the different locations and the new faces from Australia's remarkably handsome pool of talent. Chelsie Peyton Crawford's portrayal of the chain smoking brassy platinum blonde tart with no heart in Razor was tour de force. She wrote the book on common trollop. The sets were good, lots of location shooting, which made you feel as if you were right there, and watching the Sydney Harbor Bridge construction progressing in Razor gave the series added authenticity.

My only complaint was too much nudity and graphic sex, which would rule it out for US network viewing and lose out on a lucrative market. They should have saved the more graphic sex and skin for extended edition DVD's.

Unfortunately, Season 5 ran out of steam. Where was the music? Where was the fast editing? Where was the location shooting? Where was the full tilt boogie band feel? The slightly off-kilter reality? I watched two episodes and turned off to do the housework which had been neglected while bingeing on the first four seasons. Did the director change? Was the budget cut? Suddenly the best thing and most refreshingly different series in years has turned into a routine cop show. Whatever the reason, they should have stopped while they were ahead.
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Australian Sopranos? No, far better
kdavidbushnell8 March 2010
This show is incredible! It is amazingly entertaining.. The best modern crime show ever. Its all true. compare Underbelly to Sopranos? lol come on. Underbelly makes the Sopranos look like p*ssy non-amusing bs. One of my favorite shows because its just flat out entertaining. DirectTV has a little hidden gem. Wonderful writing, crazy characters and wild True stories. It is not for everyone. It's the most gritty show I've ever seen. Where did this show come from? I need it on DVD. It's as well made as an HBO or Showtime show. Mark "Chopper" Read makes an appearance. The Kane brothers are deep in the plot. Australia has some great crime stories. This show is far better than The Sopranos. I only compare the two because someone else did. The acting is swell, the directing is fine, the art direction and cinematography are exceptional. If one has the chance to watch this show. Give it a whirl if your not faint hearted. Wildly entertaining. I really can't say enough or too much about Underbelly, you got to check it out. If you like crime shows, this is for you.
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Bloody excellent!
travelbug_20018 August 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Now firstly I can't help but to roll my eyes at reviewers slating the series having not watched the whole series! I can think of plenty of series that didn't grip me with the first episodes but I gave it a go & it was splendid.

I moved to Australia 9 months ago so I didn't know any of the history of the gangland wars beyond seeing on the news here that they were extraditing Tony Mokbel for murder after his dramatic escape to Greece (series 2 perhaps?).

I've watched the whole series & it was bloody excellent. I live in Melbourne & it was interesting to see the locations I recognised. Now what really made this great imo is that I've met people who were exactly like the characters portrayed, they were believable everyday people - therefore it felt realistic.

Perhaps it's not as slickly produced as the Sopranos but I'd imagine the budget is rather different. "Underbelly" - being set in Australia had an entirely feel - a real Aussie vibe compared to US vibe which made it interesting. Both series are excellent in their own different ways.

Highly recommended viewing!
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This is not an American sit-com
jamesmoule23 April 2008
Plenty has been written elsewhere on this site about "Underbelly" so there is no need for me to detail the plot or the relationship to real events. My purpose is to comment on the other commentaries. A few years ago, Screen time produced a mini-series based on the Bryce Courtenay novel "Jessica". It was aired on the 10 Network in Australia, presumably to boost their Australian drama quota. It bombed despite being of excellent quality. The reason was that the Ten Network audience has different expectations from the ABC audience. The same applies to "Underbelly". Though it has certainly rated well and is the talk of the office every Thursday morning, I can't help feeling that it would have been even more appreciated by those whose dials are rusted on to the ABC. Those who have commented here about low production values and those who have compared the show to "The Sopranos" give away their expectations as typical Nine Network viewers. They like slick, tightly scripted programs, typically produced by American networks. Thank heavens "Underbelly" didn't get the "Days of Our Lives" treatment. I feel that I know the characters in "Underbelly". The incidents and the people are straight out of the national news bulletins. This is a dramatised documentary in many ways. "The Sopranos", popular though it may be, is candy-coated fiction in comparison. Give me reality, rough with warts, any day.
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Right up there with the Sopranos!!!
richarriltd31 August 2009
First of all I am a Sopranos fanatic of the highest order, I've bought all the DVDs for all seasons. Hence with such a "refined" palate for the genre I really didn't have high expectations of this Aussie program. In fact when TV3 screened it earlier this year (or was it last year?) here in NZ, I missed it. I caught up with the recent rerun on the same TV channel (also bought the DVD). And boy! I'm glad I did because it is absolutely fantastic... Now, I saw a few "nah, it ain't all that" comments here but as 1)a Kiwi who is very frugal with any praise directed at anything or anybody Australian and 2)an out and out Sopranos fanatic I'll tell you this is one awesome show, right up there with the Sopranos. If anything, I think it's even better especially with its "life is even more mind-bogglingly stranger than fiction" story. Full credit to the film crew and sound editor; they nailed some emotionally- moving scenes with the cinematography and soundtrack. Underbelly is the only Mafia-style program/movie that has moved me to tears because of its poignant moments of futility, stupidity and sorrow. Bravo!!!
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Too funny
kevromills19 May 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Solid Aussie drama. All actors in good form, but top marks go to to Kat, who plays Roberta - hilarious. Vince Colosimo as the Black Prince was also a standout.

The direction and editing may upset the purists, I reckon its edgy and appropriate.

There are some cheesy moments, like at the end when the Purana mob are all walking over the hill in slow mo to arrest Carl (scene saved however by an angry Roberta mouthing a slow mo "f*** off"!).

Much has be written about the "reality" of the show and the gratuitous sex scenes - but all in all its crackin' good tele!

Comparisons to Blue Murder and the Sopranos (and Scorsese?) are a given, but Underbelly stands up fine on its own.

PS - Loved the soundtrack.
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First season great. The rest? no!!!
mattrochman11 April 2010
IMDb should actually have separate entries for each series, rather than filing in it as one show with three seasons. Each "season" is a separate crime story, set in a different era with different characters. My review of 8/10 is simply for season 1. The first season was a fascinating story and the series was fairly well put together, though it did become a fraction "soapie" at some points. Nonetheless, the tone set by the acting was well conceived and the accuracy was pretty much there, even though a few events and aspects were simplified.

Engaging plot, engaging characters, a few well-placed humorous touches, great acting. Enormous success.

Following this, we had the second year which was titled Underbelly: The tale of two cities. This show was set in the 1970s and 1980s and was, in a nutshell, unengaging. The story was a bit thin, it was hard to find characters to sympathise with and several mid-season episodes seemed to play no role in advancing the stories, while others covered areas and stories that were covered in previous productions such as Blue Murder. I lost interest and its dwindling ratings throughout the season were well deserved.

The first episodes of the third "season" (The Golden Mile) has just been aired (at the time of writing this) and it similarly appears that the characters will be largely uninspired and a suspicion that material will run thin and ratings with dwindle.

Why didn't they just leave it at the first "season" and launch other crime stories under a separate title? Answer: unoriginal channel 9 executives in Sydney!
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The start of an epic saga.
eggflip6618 February 2008
OK, Underbelly is banned in part of Australia(Victoria) and I'm not going into any of the details, so just forget the hype surrounding this show and look at it for what it is.

For starters, it's only the beginning. This is a 13 part epic saga, which so far only 2 of the parts were played, and I'm already hearing a lot of complaints about this show that there either wasn't enough violence or that it just didn't lived up to the hype. Well I say those people probably don't follow the news, because if you knew anything about the past 10 years of crime in the Melbourne Underworld you would not only want to see more after just 1 episode, but you would have a little more respect and at least let the series play out before you start firing guns prematurely like a mad Alphonse Gangitano. Speaking of which, actor Vince Colosimo was outstanding in his role of the prince of Lygon street. If anyone says otherwise they should go back to watching "Home and Away", because they obviously cannot appreciate a brilliant Australian actor when they see one. You also have a tremendous ensemble of many established Australian actors with a few fresh faces.

With only seeing the pilot and with my knowledge of what is about to happen, I know this is going to be an epic saga and will be remembered I hope for being a gem in goldmines of the Australian film industry, and not for its controversy. Of course, so long as the poor Victorians get to see it. Lastly I won't spoil anything so long as you watch the news, so we should all know Carl Williams is the last man standing in the end. But right now he is just the "Underbelly".
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Truly pathetic film making
Ozzy200017 February 2009
The acting is pathetic and the series purports to be factual and it is far from the truth. Also not only do Australians not converse as depicted in this film nor did any of the characters in real life nor would they have.

The film is full of gratuitous soft and dumb sex scenes. In addition and wealthy drug indulgence scenes of wimpy looking so called Australian "underworld" figures acting like absolute ponces with a arrogant conceited tones to their line delivery.

The film demonstrates nothing about the human condition and the disjointed editing and meaningless "story line" requires continual narrative voice over to explain who is who and what is going on.

The whole thing is absolute crap.
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Australia's True Account of Its Criminal Underworld
jfcthejock20 May 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Underbelly is Australia's answer to The Sopranos, obviously due to The Sopranos being a HBO show with a much larger budget and scope, Underbelly is always going to seem lower-budget to it. Underbelly however, with its smaller budget has more to go by in terms of value and authenticity. Whilst The Sopranos is based on a real Mafia Crime family based out of New Jersey named the DeCavalcante Crime Family, however it only uses this as the basis for the show and not follow real-life events of the its real counter-part.

Underbelly however, does the opposite and tries to do its best following and depicting the real events of the story of Underbelly. The real murders, the real shootings and accounts that have been written in many books about Australian organised crime. Series one of Underbelly, simply "Underbelly" charts the infamous Melbourne Gangland War of 1995 and lasted until 2004. Following accounts, and evidence released the first series portrays the events leading up the bloody turf war over Melbourne's drug trade.

This is done well, seeing as this is to date the more current and recent portrayal of the crimes, as the other series portray the 1970's and 1980's. Most of the cast, is obviously veterans of Australian soaps and television dramas so it can be excused if some of these actors and actresses don't match up to James Gandolfini's status in The Sopranos. This is evident with the designated real-life portrayals in the show of the gang bosses, and top men in the underworld. They do air their presence on the show, the power they wield of life and death and even the respect from their men. Particularly the brutal real-life Melbourne gang boss Alphonse Gangitano perfectly portrayed by Vince Colosimo who has gone on to many more projects since even in America.

For series one of Underbelly, the Melbourne Gangland War is well portrayed from the brutal murders that fanned the flames of the war, to the arrests, and even the trials near to the end of the feud with a smaller budget for an Australian drama. Then "Underbelly: A Tale of Two Cities" was aired, set between the years of 1976 and 1987 showing events of organised crime in the cities of New South Wales and Victoria in Australia.

A Tale of Two Cities, portrays the events of the rocky, yet profitable eleven years of organised crime, and partnership of two criminal figures; Australian Mafioso Bob Trimbole and New Zealand Heroin Importer Terry Clarke. A profitable time in Australian organised crime, the show portrays their rise and fall well taking into the account of the change of decades with sets, clothing and filming. A Tale of Two Cities, feels like Boardwalk Empire for Australians but in the 1970's and 1980's.

Both characters of Bob Trimbole and Terry Clarke are well portrayed on screen, by their counter-parts and you can see a rise in quality acting that could put even a few Crime Dramas in America to shame. The show stays faithful to the true events of those years depicted, the murders and even government enquiries into police corruption. The police corruption is well portrayed, and even opens an even more interesting sub-plot that brought the real corrupted police officers in Australia down for drug trafficking, and even murder.

With a change of scenery, another more recent sequel has been released named "Underbelly: The Golden Mile" portraying the events of 1988 to 1999 around the infamous King's Cross in Sydney. "The Golden Mile" does well to show us events leading up to the original "Underbelly" series of the Melbourne Gangland War, as some events cross over and inter-merge together. Police corruption was rife, and is well documented in this third series with police investigations into money laundering, drug trafficking and murder by Sydney Police Officers.

Again characters, real events, murders and trials are well portrayed perhaps to a little extent I feel "The Golden Mile" is second to "A Tale of Two Cities." This is maybe due to having a real feel of 1970's gangland in Australia, and the sudden move to the 1990's with "The Golden Mile." However characters, the acting and writing are still sublime in third season, and may in some areas be better than series one as the police corruption plot is expanded.

Finally of television series released, "Underbelly: Razor" has been aired quite recently and portrays the years of 1927 to 1936 and is the earliest portrayal of Australian organised crime in the series. Portraying the events of early gangland in Sydney, and infamous Razor gangs who used shaving Razors as weapons in their fight for dominance. Currently I have yet to get my hands on a DVD release of "Underbelly: Razor" to watch, but from reviews I had heard it is a good addition to the series.

As of note, a trilogy of three TV-films were aired and released depicting other events of crime from other parts of Australia. This series continuously becomes larger and ever expanding, which I love and can only hope more for the future. Give it a go, if you have an open mind and want to enjoy gangster films, and shows about other countries.
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Angelus217 April 2010
Warning: Spoilers
This is apparently based on true life and if it is...I find it very hard to believe that these gangsters had any kind of hold over anyone. I am reviewing this on the performance of the pilot, which in my opinion is terrible.

Gangsters engage in random violence, try to extort money, and again engage in violence....As well as have sex with women, which doesn't even try to fit into the story.

The actor who plays Alphone Gangitano is ridiculously over-hyped, and so are all the other actors. The storyline does not seem to exist, the dialog is awful, and more importantly it's very sad watching these 'Gangsters' try to act like the 'Sopranos' by having random meetings in random places.
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Like "Neighbours" and "Home & Away" with a bit of violence.
MrSyntax13 February 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Only mild spoilers ----

I was looking forward to Underbelly for many weeks. The advertising campaign was fantastic and the banning in Victoria definitely helped this. With all respect to the parties involved in the current litigation, I am only commenting on the artistry of this project more than anything related to the events it represents.

Underbelly is correctly based on a true story about the gangland battlegrounds of Melbourne Victoria. This is quite a powerful story and quite possibly something that will be marked for the crime library of Australian history.

This is only a comment on the pilot episode, so I'm unsure of how the rest of the series is going to be. I understand that it is wrong in some cases to even begin to comment on an entire series just on the strength of a pilot so I will only comment for the pilot.

The opening of this series felt weak. So weak that it was almost embarrassing. It was only thanks to Vince Collosimo's performance, that it held together. Even so, with dialog that was undoubtedly written by a soap opera professional, it was amazing to see that all of this almost worked. The violence was not that violent considering the camp "Terminator SCC" was on immediately afterwords and left it for dead. The sexual content is about as sexy as a bad hand-job. I don't know what the tabloids are trying to enforce because the Direction on these areas were mild. Doesn't matter much on this point though, we know that this kind of thing doesn't make up for a good story. Now, a lot of the introductions to these characters were almost comical, like a lock stock and 2 smoking barrels kind of slating for gang members. This felt cheap, it looked cheap and it was unintimidating in any way. If this was an attempt to make us aware of a possible "coolness" to come from these characters, then it just wasn't right.

One begs to wonder whether this series needs or now needed a better Director and a better cinematographer or should I say a videographer. (Well, it felt like that anyway) Maybe even a better writer, because a lot of our actors here deserve way better than this. I think some of the most unfortunate and lifeless work was lingering around the gang meeting scenes at the sports arena (or was it a racecourse?) But apart from this, there are definite believable and smooth moments. I hope more of these moments occur and I must say I am somewhat interested in seeing more of Gyton Grantley who looks exactly like Carl Williams in real life.

There are more episodes to come and I look forward to eating my own words. For a TV mini series, it's not over till the fat lady sings - but so far, I'm hearing a scratchy record loop.
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Chances with guns.....
dunxy15 February 2008
Maybe i had set expectations to high before watching the 1st ep.I was hoping for something that would maybe stack up against the likes of "Blue Murder" but from the 1st ep,I really am not holding my breath.

The acting is sub par for the most part, really i thought i was watching Neighbours one half of the time and Stingers(more Aussie crap) the other half.The writing doesn't seem to be much better.The camera work is atrocious, a lot of the hand held "move the camera excessively and abuse the crapola outta the zoom" nypdpoo style going on.I guess they do it to try and make uninteresting scenes more interesting,sadly it fails all of the time and just annoys.

I'm sure this mediocre tripe will do OK rating wise because of all the hype surrounding it and the ban etc.But it really is nothing special, not so far at least.....

UPDATE:People were quick to judge and say how can you rate something on the 1st 2 eps,well after having seen all the eps, it only got worse,MUCH worse.

Far to much T&A (don't get me wrong, I'm no prude, just its mindless filler...)Its obvious which demographic they were hoping to get in the viewing audience...

From the NSW number plates on the vehicles to all the breathing dead people, this show is just rubbish!I've seen films made by high school kids that are better than this. See revised (lower) rating....

This may well be the best show channel 9 has ever aired, but thats not saying anything,they love to show unwatchable tripe,underbelly is just the lesser of evils.

Anybody remember Chances? Underbelly is like Chances with guns!
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Worth watching, but not the highest production values
laus0720 March 2008
What makes this watching (and I have a few episodes to go) is the real story behind it, not so much the acting and production values (though they vary in their quality).

In terms of writing and complexity of character, or the intensity of the acting, this is no Sopranos, nor even the earlier brilliant Australian crime series (also based on reality), Janus and Phoenix.

Unfortunately, most of the actors playing the crims, especially Vince Colossimo playing Alphonse Gangitano, draw from standard "bad guy" characterization, and as a result come across as two dimensional and cartoony. In many ways, this could be an extended episode of "Blue Heelers". It's very old school - don't give criminals any redeeming human values, just make them look like pantomime villains. OK, maybe that's harsh, but this is not a series which is breaking any new ground.

Putting those gripes aside, I'll certainly watch this through to the end - it is very watchable, and the fact that it is reality, not just "based on a true story" more than makes up for any weaknesses.
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Variable series
divineguy6 October 2018
Given each season is about a different person, you'll find seasons you like and don't like. Personally the first one about Melbourne ganglands was by far the best and it went downhill from there with lame scripts and acting.
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