People of Australia rejoice. There’s a new crime drama on TV and it isn’t Underbelly 52: NSW Rum Rebellion. The Straits is a new ten part series set in far north tropical Queensland and the Torres Strait. I just watched the media preview disk of the first 2 episodes and will definitely see the rest of the series via ABC iView.
Most of you won’t have ever traveled to the really northern parts of Queensland or looked at a map of Islands in the Torres Strait, so you won’t have realised that it’s relatively easy to hop between them to Papua New Guinea (PNG).
PNG’s Highlands are infamous for tribal fights. Traditional fighting weapons are spears, and bows and arrows but nowadays sophisticated weaponry such as army-issue machine guns are commonly used. Most illegal weapons in PNG are stolen from police or military armouries, while weapons smuggled into PNG often come from Australia by sea.
The show’s storyline revolves around ructions in the Montebello family led by patriarch Harry, over which of the 3 brothers will take over their smuggling business.
Fans of HBO’s Deadwood TV series and the films Bourne Supremecy, X-Men 2 will be familiar with Brian Cox who plays Harry Montebello. If you thought being fed to the pigs alive in the US wild west frontier town of Deadwood was a really painful way to die you haven’t seen payback in Far North Queensland and PNG style.
There are similarities between The Straits, the aforementioned Deadwood and the FX cable TV show Justified which centres around Kentucky crime families. All 3 shows are quality crime dramas about life on the edge of civilised territory where the black market flourishes.
ABC TV commissioned Matchbox Pictures to create a 10 episodes series of The Straits and their team has done an HBO-esque job with presumably far less budget. If successful I’m sure ABC/Matchbox hope to sell broadcast rights for the show to overseas networks.
Pay attention to the screen while watching because bikey gangs, smugglers, raskols and a family plotting against each other make for an interesting and unpredictable plot. I wonder what Tourism Queensland thinks of the show’s tagline “Beautiful One Day, Deadly The Next” 😉 ?
The Straits premieres as a double episode on Thursday 2nd February at 830pm on ABC1 and is repeated on ABC2 at 1030pm Friday 3rd February. Let’s see how it competes against CSI on 9, Law and Order on 10 and Desperate Housewives on 7. Perhaps it deserved the Sunday night flagship timeslot on ABC 1 instead?
Tim Winton wrote of people who live in frontier towns – like those in our north on the shores of the narrow, shallow waters between us and PNG – that they measure up to the myth, “do things, remember things, and recall things in their carriage that the rest of us just dreamt of as children”. And this series gets what Winton called “the scale of things, the grandeur and craziness of it” just right.
– The Australian
In the premiere there’s a hefty dose of crimes: drug importation by boat across the Torres Straits from PNG, drug manufacturing, assault, assault with a deadly weapon, use of firearms, kidnapping, embezzlement and even murder (and what a novel death scene it is!).
These characters should be entirely unlikeable. They are, after all, violent crooks with no sign of redemption (yet).
Yet there is an empathy cleverly created by the boys’ inability to rise to the ambitions of their father. However flawed they are, there is also devotion to the family unit.
– TV Tonight