Howzat! Kerry Packer's War
One of the major television events of
the year, ‘HOWZAT! Kerry Packer’s War’ is the entertaining – And
slightly fictionalised - account of how Kerry packer took on the
Cricketing establishment and, against all odds, came out on top,
changing the game forever.
Essentially an underdog tale, if one
of Australia’s most prominent entrepreneurs can really be
referred to as an underdog, the film details the inception of World
Series Cricket and the fallout this audacious venture inflicts, both on
the politics of the game and the personal toll on those involved.
Chronicling the assembly of some of
the greatest players ever to grace the sport and their formation of a
rebel contingent, the first half of the film details Packer’s butting of
heads with the Australian Cricket Board as they scramble to try and
block this officious upstart’s perceived bastardisation of their beloved
sport. Packer is a Machiavellian presence presiding over everything and
it is absolutely riveting to watch this shark take on the establishment.
In a memorable early scene, Packer
tries to buy exclusive broadcasting rights for the sport to the tune of
one and a half million, only to be turned down point blank. Fuelled by
this rare refusal of his desires, Packer jumps on board an idea posited
by John Cornell where Australia’s best Cricketers would face off against
a team composed of the cream of the crop from the rest of the world.
Much of the first half focuses on the
surreptitious poaching of players and the resulting backlash from both
the public and the Australian Cricket Board once news of this attempted
coup comes out in the media. Players became social pariahs and risked
permanent barring from the sport they loved by siding with Packer,
making for both a fascinating record of sporting history and great
It’s amazing to think that back in
1977, world class Cricketers made as little as $8000 a season; it’s a
situation that’s diametrically opposed with the big bucks sporting
personalities command today. Packer helped make sporting careers a
lucrative proposition by paying top dollar to lure players away from the
Australian team, an act that had a domino effect leading to larger
paycheques all round.
Part Two focuses more on the dynamics
and personality clashes of the players in the ‘Packer Circus’ and WSC’s
steady progression from under-attended novelty to a force in its own
right. Some major innovations to the sport came about due to Packer’s
pet project, such as using white balls, playing night games under
lights, donning coloured clothing and the use of helmets. Scenes depict
these implementations and also briefly touch upon the writing of the
famous anthem ‘C’mon Aussie C’mon’, although the suggestion that the
song was the tipping point in terms of WSC’s success is a bit hard to
Much like real life, there is no tidy
wrapping up of plot strands at the end, as Packer refuses to rest on his
laurels and starts to focus his interest on his next grand venture, in
this case the beginnings of Crown Casino.
‘HOWZAT!’ features a top tier cast
with uncanny portrayals of famous sporting personalities like Richie
Benaud, Ian Chappell and a pitch perfect portrayal of Tony Greig, right
down to his toffy accent. In a character driven piece such as this,
performances account for everything and there are no disappointments
Kerry Packer’s War is a Southern Star John Edwards production for Nine
Network Australia in association with Screen Australia and doesn’t pull any punches
with their warts and all portrayal of their former owner, although they
do attempt to explain, if not justify, some of his behaviour.
Much has been made of Lachy Hulme’s
incredible psychical transformation, but it’s a transformation that goes
far beyond the aesthetic – Hulme truly inhabits the character.
is simultaneously repellent and sympathetic, a malevolent beast of a man
who verbally berates those around him, only rarely showing a softer side
that highlights his social ineptitude. He has few redeeming traits and
viewers could have easily turned against the character, but you find
yourself rooting for him in spite of these character flaws. By the end,
you get the impression that Packer is nothing more than a lonely rich
kid who bullies others to get what he wants, but can’t receive what he
truly desires - Acceptance.
Unsurprisingly for such a monumental television event, the Blu Ray
transfer is top of the range. Image quality is sharp, with every pore
and crease on the actors faces standing out in incredible detail; you
can literally make out each individual hair of those brilliant Seventies
porn moustaches. The colours are clean and vibrant, especially the inky
blacks. Although slightly blurry, even the archival footage looks
impressive. There’s no sign of bleed or aliasing, however there is a
fine grainy quality that is noticeable in some scenes.
Sound is presented with Crystal clear precision, with everything from
the click of the Cricket ball to the urgent instrumental score sounding
beautiful. Also of note is the soundtrack, which is comprised of classic
Australian tunes from the Seventies that pull you right into the film
and invoke the mood and essence of the era. Presented in 5.1 DTS-HD, the
audio quality cannot be faulted; it’s crisp and clean and the levels are
features are scarce, with only a commentary on the feature and a
documentary included on the second disc to appease fans. Whilst outtakes
and deleted scenes would have been a nice addition, the informative
documentary on the history of World Series Cricket is extremely
comprehensive and is bound to satisfy both fans of the film and Cricket
fans in general.
Commentary with Producer John Edwards and writer Christopher Lee
Aussie C’mon, 20th Anniversary of World Series Cricket (44
The machinations of those behind the
scenes of the world of Cricket is enthralling and makes for terrific
viewing, offering a unique insight into the mind of Australia’s most
famous Businessmen. Kerry packer is a man motivated by the desire to
succeed financially to prove his worth, even if it’s at the expense of
being likable, and Lachy Hulme turns in a career defining performance.
A massive event for Channel Nine, and
quite possibly the best mini-series of the decade so far, ‘Howzat! Kerry
Packer’s War’ is a triumph on all counts, even if you have no interest
whatsoever in the sport it’s depicting. Highly recommended.