Long live Queen Kate & long live Queen Tilly

The fourth series in the franchise, Underbelly Razor had a lot going for it – a strong Australian story of criminals in 1920’s Sydney, a great book to base the scripts on, lots of great acting talent signed up, & none of the characters still breathing to proffer legal challenges.

With promises of “the biggest story yet”, it started strongly and introduced us to Kate Leigh & Tilly Devine who owned crime in Darlinghurst just as the Harbour Bridge was four pylons and naught more. It was a rare story, having two very strong female characters as leads and it was obvious that Danielle Cormack (Kate) and Chelsie Preston Crayford (Tilly) had a lot of fun with their outlandish and outrageous behaviour.

As the season played out Kate & Tilly’s fued escalated, helped along by some intentionally (Norman Bruhn & Phil “The Jew” Jeffs) and others blindly trying to build their own profile and basically getting in the way (Guido Calletti & Frank Green). While the story progress was sometimes quite pedestrian, particularly the back half was quite solid, with very strong performances from the cast.

The finale episode was a bit of a disappointment given the improvements over the final weeks. Lots of conflict, lots of shooting and missing (far too much of that happened this series), a good wrap of the major characters, but not much else. It felt like it was half an episode stretched to fill the hour. Even the much touted scene of Kate & Tilly’s showdown in the cemetary wasn’t much. All in all – it was a little flat.

There were some stellar moments throughout the series. Jeremy Lindsay Taylor’s Bruhn was an stark intense brand of violence we’ve not seen in some time; John Batchelor’s Wally Tomlinson had an romantic empathy that transformed into an angry and combustible thug who realised he was no longer loved and left – a truly touching moment. Anna McGahan lit the screen every time she appeared as Nellie Cameron, and she gave us a layered and complex schoolgirl with a love for the bad man. The art & costuming departments gave us stunning sets and some beautiful costumes that drew 2011 Sydney back to 1927.

Importantly, Razor rated well enough that we’ll see at least one more series (and it will have helped Channel 9 with it’s advertising rates for 2012). A creative series to add to the fold, Underbelly Razor delivered strongly on what fans have come to expect – drama, intrigue, sex, boobs & bullets.