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Review – Bikie Wars: Brothers In Arms

May 15, 2012

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.

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15 Comments leave one →
  1. May 16, 2012 3:20 am

    Just found your website recently and have been enjoying a refreshing and real take on Aussie TV, well done. As for this series, I was excited to sit down and watch it given that I’ve just finished series four of Sons, I must say I was a little disappointed. I like your comment about there being nothing all that similar about the two besides the bikes, I need to remember that. What I loved about sons was the character development and so far this has been lacking in Bikie Wars, hopefully that will be rectified in future eps. And those stupid slow mo scenes drove me nuts, added nothing to the plot development and seemed oddly timed in some instances. For a action type show I did find it pretty slow going too, though the second episode seems like it might move along a bit.

  2. Weetbix permalink
    May 16, 2012 9:38 am

    This was the most ridiculous “drama” I think I’ve ever seen. Totally unbelievable characters, bad acting and unconvincing ‘based on real events’ plot.
    If you want to see a true gritty depiction of gang life see NZ’s’ Once were warriors’. Those characters make these “bikies” look like choir boys.
    In short :Absolutely pathetic.

    • June 21, 2012 3:27 am

      yea well mate id like 2 see you say that to the real bikies talking shit on here dont make you sound tough and besides that once were warriors and this program are totally different

      • June 21, 2012 7:22 am

        I think you’re missing the point. I’m not “talking shit on here” about ‘real’ bikies. AND I’m not trying “to sound tough”.
        Do you realise the difference between a drama and a documentary ? By the look of your message you don’t have the intelligence to differentiate (look it up, I know it’s a big word) between the two.
        Seriously mate, a comment like yours says a lot more about you than it does me.

  3. Riga permalink
    May 16, 2012 11:25 am

    Some producers need to learn that there is more to drama than just ‘Shouting, Shooting and Shagging”?

  4. Little Bat permalink
    May 17, 2012 4:32 am

    My problem was that, with the exception of the Ceaser character, none of them actually looked like bikers from that era. The soundtrack was quite dreadful – songs which have been forgotten – not really good music.

  5. Riga permalink
    May 19, 2012 2:02 pm

    I’ve just had to endure sitting through the encore screening of this effort in the company of friends. They too were underwhelmed at this series of musical montages and slow-mos punctuated by bits of not very well written dialogue. There are many issues with the show itself, but one thing the makers do not have any control over is the frequent interruptions by commercials. The stations do not show any respect for the programmes they broadcast, nor the audience that is trying to watch them. Stories become fragmented and viewers lose patience and interest.

  6. May 22, 2012 3:32 pm

    Just watched episode 2, makes episode 1 look interesting.

    • May 23, 2012 2:13 am

      I fell asleep. It is dull at best. Very disappointing.

  7. Billie permalink
    May 29, 2012 1:08 pm

    I think callum mulvey is an awesome actor and also I think Matt noble is someone I could fall in love with right on the spot, he is what makes this show compelling and u just want more of him, I know that he is prob the only reason why I watch it;)

  8. Billie permalink
    May 29, 2012 1:12 pm

    I know I love bike wars brothers in arms because tho I really like watching these actors, I am finding the show interesting and I have found myself take side of the comancheros from very early on as jock Ross, played by Matt noble is hott!!! Exactly my type;)

  9. lenard conroy permalink
    June 13, 2012 2:33 pm

    lmfao this is the same day i was born september 1st 1984 not only ima king of spring but ima famous born child heheheheh
    but if they was looking for a guy whose big with scars on his face to act in this program i love to give it a shot

  10. Knackers permalink
    June 30, 2012 12:29 am

    I sat and watched all 6 episodes in the vain hope that it was going to get better…geez how wrong was I. It was poor at best…possibly one of the worst Aussie dramas l have ever seen. It wasn’t realistic at all, it was drawn out and really lacked body and content. For such an infamous day to be portrayed this way was an injustice. I am not supporting anything or any of the events but i believe if you are going to tell a story based on actual events then you really need to make it believable….and this wasn’t. The bikes were not from that era…neither were the vehicles they used……and the setting where it actually took place was not even accurate. I don’t expect them to get it all right…but if they want to get the audience to really get into the story line then at some level it has to be believable. Maybe they should have consulted some more people re the actual events. Very sad it was so poorly done.

  11. Erskine Childers permalink
    July 20, 2012 12:19 pm

    Callan Mulvey is probably a pretty good actor in suitable roles, but I didn’t believe him as a bikie, nor did I believe him as Jason Moran’s slightly more civilized step brother in Underbelly One. More NIDA than Coburg or Ascot Vale. Looks tough, but sounds too nice.

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