The third and final in this new one-off series, Underbelly Files: The Man Who Got Away is the story of David McMillan – a one time Junior newsreader for GTV 9 and hyper-intelligent young adult who’d made his first million by the time he was 22. Selling heroin. He was aspirational though, and a stay in the infamous Bangkok Hilton was never going to be long (as far as he was concerned).
Screentime have delivered in spades for Channel 9 with this third telemovie, featuring some of the most recognisable faces in the Australian acting fraternity today. McMillan is delivered as an aloof yet impassioned fool by Toby Schmitz, distracted by love in a very dangerous game. His confidence is everything and a tool he trades for far too long, costing him almost everything. It’s McMillan’s love for Clelia Vigano (Clare van der Boom) – and to a lesser degree his mother Rosie (Heather Mitchell) – that really gets him into trouble. van der Boom’s Clelia is vibrant yet needy, and this heady mix is all the fuel McMillan needs as support to convince him he can do anything. His best mate Michael Sullivan (Josh Lawson) is along for the ride, looking to McMillan as an impossible hero, and it’s this vulnerability that Lawson has nailed.
While parts of the story feel like we’ve been told them before, the situations the group find themselves in and then weasel their way out of are compellingly presented. Again, in 100 minutes, The Man Who Got Away has little time for developing background or serious character growth. It’s on, it’s fast, hang on, it pays off. Schmitz is a joy to watch in the central role, and the friendship he and Lawson offer on-screen is genuine and sincere. Jeremy Sims gives an outstanding performance as Lord Tony Moynihan, and everytime he’s on-screen it’s impossible to not be staring at him. His delivery of Moynihan is transfixing (and it’s a long way from Chances).
There is some fun in playing “name the bit-player”, with great appearances from John Orcsik, Brendan Cowell, and Aaron Jeffrey (who doubles as the narrator for this episode). It’s Jeffrey’s role that seems the most disconnected. Every bad guy needs a cop to chase him, and while I’m sure Detective Inspector Geoff Leyland wasn’t a complete fool McMillan certainly makes him look like one for most of the episode.
Underbelly Files: The Man Who Got Away is an excellent story to round out this first group of featurettes in the Undebelly franchise. While Infiltration may have been stronger from a plot perspective, the performances in this episode are what get it across the line. I predict a thoroughly deserving timeslot win.
Underbelly Files: Infiltration – 8:30pm Mon 21/02, Ch9
Image/Video sources – Ch9.