Review – Bikie Wars: Brothers In Arms
Bikie Wars: Brothers In Arms – Ten – 8:30pm Tuesday – AUS
Channel 10’s latest drama series Bikie Wars: Brothers In Arms obviously owes a great debt of gratitude to Underbelly. Not only are they both produced by Screentime, but it’s easy to see how Ten could also transform Bikie Wars into an ongoing franchise. In this first episode Bikie Wars doesn’t do enough to distinguish itself as being much more than an Underbelly spin-off and while the end product may be slick and watchable, with a few really compelling scenes, it falls into a lot of the same traps that have plagued the later seasons of Underbelly.
Bikie Wars tells the story of the Milperra Massacre in 1984 and the club tensions that brought about the death of seven people. We follow Snoddy (Callan Mulvey), an ex-Navy officer who is recruited into the Commancheros by Jock Ross (Matt Nable) who has big plans for the club. Also in his crew are Foggy (Richard Cawthorne from The Straits), Snow (Luke Ford) and Davo (Richard Sutherland). After Snoddy joins up Jock starts recruiting ex-members of recently folded clubs, in particular Caeser Campbell (Anthony Hayes from The Slap) a man who is never afraid of a fight.
While everything in Bikie Wars rolls along smoothly nothing seems to actually happen. It’s not that what happens isn’t entertaining, it certainly goes down easier than the three most recent Underbelly series, it’s just that there doesn’t seem to be a point. Jock is hiring new recruits but why is he hiring new recruits? There’s talk about preparing them for battle, but why is he preparing them for battle? Outside of drinking and partying and participating in endless music montages the club doesn’t seem to be doing anything in this first episode. The only reason I know Snoddy is going to break away from Jock is because I’ve seen the promos not because his resentment of him is evident in any real way.
In recent years Underbelly has collapsed under the weight of its own stupidity thanks to Screentime caring more about a slick package than about good writing. This first episode is an enjoyable enough hour of television but it falls into so many Screentime traps that alarm bells start ringing. There are endless montages set to thumping rock music, there is an overuse of slow-motion, there are ample breasts bouncing about and save for a few rare occasions characters are more likely to speak their motivations than behave like actual human beings. Thankfully on that last point Bikie Wars does seem somewhat interested in exploring what makes these guys tick.
Mulvey, who is good in most things, does fine work here as the slightly distant Snoddy. Matt Nable is less good as Jock but that’s only because his character is stuck giving endless ‘big speeches’ about what everything means. There is, however, one great moment where Jock reschedules a beat down on a rival club because he doesn’t want to miss an episode of Dallas. That one moment gives us a look into his character worth more than a dozen big speeches. Best in the cast, though, is Anthony Hayes, who has been turning in great work all over the place, but is incredibly compelling as Caeser. Bikie Wars is at its best when Caeser is on screen and at its worst when it’s replacing scenes that could be used for character development with another slow motion party.
While it would be obvious to compare Bikie Wars to Sons Of Anarchy (those opening credits are awfully similar) and the success of Sons shouldn’t be discounted in explaining how Bikie Wars got to air, outside of both being about bikers it doesn’t have many other similarities to that far grittier show. Bikie Wars is a glossier series and that’s why it owes so much to Underbelly. This is a solid first outing and it’s encouraging that Ten have only ordered six episodes for this series, as one of Underbelly’s biggest failings is that it gets stretched awfully thin after 13 episodes. Bikie Wars isn’t going to change the face of Australian television but this is an enjoyable, if rather shallow, first episode.
Good, Alright, Bad Or Ugly?
This review is part of Change The Channel’s episode by episode coverage of Bikie Wars: Brothers In Arms. The full list of episode reviews can be found under Series.