The scene opens with Detective Gary Jubelin (Matt Nable) staring across the table at Anthony Perish (Jonathan LaPaglia) in a disposable prison outfit and in handcuffs. Two very driven, passionate men not willing to give an inch. After a brief exchange the series then starts in a series of brutal flashbacks as to why Jubelin had to catch Perish in the first place. Underbelly Badness is fierce, no question.
The fifth in the Underbelly series has taken a different tack, this time focusing on the team that brought the bad guy down. Caroline Craig returns as the narrator – a staple in the franchise – and the spoon-fed titles give us everything we need to know where we are throughout the series. But it’s Nable, LaPaglia and a career-defining turn from Aaron Jeffrey that are the centre of attention and it’s thoroughly deserved.
Nable presents Jubelin as a dedicated, uncompromising police officer who epitomizes tenacity. He’s married to the job and would be lucky to have any life outside his unit were it not for catching the gaze of another officer. As leader of Strike Force Tuno he commands the respect of his unit even though he’s nicknamed “Crazy Fuck” behind his back. LaPaglia reveals Perish as a maniacal leader with a desire for anonymity, and woe betide anyone that stands in his way. He’s menacing… And his physical stature and permanent smirk are a deliciously ironic combination.
Aaron Jeffrey commands the screen the minute he appears as the slightly overweight Informant X (named Frank O’Rourke for the series). The informant is a paranoid ex-bike gang member who rolls Perish to the cops at great personal risk and there isn’t a minute that Jeffrey isn’t the most mesmerizing person in the scene.
The supporting cast, including Josh Quong Tart and Jodi Gordon are solid, but at least for the first three episodes bit players to the power trio of Nable, LaPaglia and Jeffrey.
Even though the series suffers from the most awful of the Underbelly names, the script is very strong and the cast punch hard, direct and often. While it’s essentially about Perish’s comeuppance we see enough of the core elements that make the series and learn soon enough Perish is not a man to: a) owe money to, or b) have done something to upset him. Another reliable series from Screentime, Underbelly Badness is Australian drama at its dirty, gritty best.
Underbelly:Badness – Mon 8:30pm, Ch9.