Stemming from its meagre beginning as a penal colony for the British Empire, Australia has developed a colourful criminal history over the two centuries that followed. This unlawful element I think has been glamorized far too often in recent years through a number of overly embellished television series. Before this questionable trend began a two-part miniseries produced by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) set a new standard for TV drama, changing the landscape for years to come. Based on true events, Blue Murder is set in Sydney during the 70s and 80s and explores the relationship between controversial New South Wales Detective Sgt Roger Rogerson and the notorious high profile criminal Arthur “Neddy” Smith.
There’s something remarkably polarizing about what’s portrayed in this landmark series, and I can only narrow it down to sheer street-level grit of criminal life or the blatant corruption that was rife within a faction of the New South Wales Police Force. Roger Rogerson, who is regarded as arguably Australia’s most crooked cop, was the embodiment of this rotten culture. One of the most highly decorated officers among his respective peers, he was the best and worst of law enforcement. His unofficial partnering with Neddy Smith who was a fundamental criminal in his own right, is noticeably affectionate as the two bond over many beers planning their illegal endeavours. One of two key events which Blue Murder dramatizes is the infamous daylight shooting of low-level drug deal Warren Lanfranchi by Rogerson, in which Smith was a pivotal player in the proceedings that followed. The second landmark occurrence entails the failed assassination of undercover detective Michael Drury, who Rogerson attempted to bride. Despite being a television-based production, there’s a striking cinematic quality which was rarely seen in living rooms at the time. Dim lighting often combined with a thick vale of cigarette smoke creates an almost film-noir aesthetic, appealing to fans the crime synonymous genre. Richard Roxburgh as Rogerson is a performance unmatched in terms of transformation, charisma and intimidation; the psychical and verbal likeness to his real-life counterpart is unquestionable. I personally rate it as possibly the greatest ever seen on Australian television. In the role of Neddy Smith, renowned character actor Tony Martin is furiously menacing as the career criminal, loyal and ruthless in equal measure.
There’s so much more I could talk about as the total runtime of Blue Murder exceeds three hours, but I just wanted to give you the essence without going into too much detail. Earlier this month Roger Rogerson along with Glen McNamara (another former police detective) were convicted for the murder of Sydney student, Jamie Gao. The once seemingly invincible cop, Rogerson will likely spend the rest of his life in prison, a fitting end for a man who played both sides of the law.
BLUE MURDER (1995)
(1995, dir: Michael Jenkins)