Screentime Crime Files
It is a
truth universally acknowledged that a book is not to be judged by its
cover. But surely there are some qualified exceptions to this. If, for
example, the cover of the book bears the line “Front page stories
ripped from the headlines of your daily newspaper” (emphasis in the
original) then surely the reader can expect that the contents of the
book are non-fiction, or, at the very least, based on
non-fiction. And surely if, when you turn the book over, you are greeted
with the words “The true Australian crime stories that held our interest
for days, weeks, months on end”, the feeling of entitlement to a
non-fictional yarn is right to be consolidated.
This accurately describes the DVD case for Screentime Crime Files,
a collection of four films, only half of which could be described
honestly as “true Australian crime stories”. So before playing the first
disc, set your expectations low.
With your expectations appropriately lowered, you might actually enjoy
quite a bit of this collection. The first film, False Witness, is
a slick tale about a troubled diplomat (played by almost-Bond Dougray
Scott) who is embroiled in what initially looks like a drug smuggling
plot in the UK. As our anti-hero is squirrelled away into a witness
protection program in Australia, it turns out that all is not as it
seems. Yes I know that’s a banal cliché, but the title of the program is
“False bloody Witness”, so what do you expect?
There’s quite a bit of involving action, a reasonably interesting but
not too convoluted plot, some attractive women... but as this enters its
third hour, one can’t help but wonder if it isn’t being stretched rather
thin. And if you are unaware that (contrary to the misleading words on
the cover) the story is entirely fictional, you might spend most of it
wondering how on earth any of it could actually be true. That persistent
doubt, nibbling away at your mind, will bite your head off in the last
act, which contains an event that forces you to the conclusion that
nothing about this feature was true at all. Why? Because, without
spoiling the conclusion of the film, if the event I’m referring to had
actually happened, you probably would have noticed. It would have made
news across the globe.
The second film is more believable. This makes sense, as my first-class
Google-fu has revealed that it is “loosely based” on true events. The
Informant tells the story of an outdoor furniture importer who gets
involved with ‘the feds’ in a high level investigation into
international organised crime. This is more interesting than it sounds,
but ultimately this film’s strength is its writing and its characters. I
was rather caught by surprise to find myself caring about a whiny emo
school-girl character, and was even more surprised to find myself
wondering if the film could have been written by anyone I’d heard of. It
really is quite solid.
The third and fourth films can be dealt with briefly. These are the ones
that are actually based on true crimes. The first deals with the murder
of Megan Kalazjich, the second, the murder of Caroline Byrne. The plot
details of these are interesting but not fascinating, and every aspect
of the production is good but not great. They’re solid reconstructions
that don’t commit any sins, but don’t deserve any real praise either. If
you’re into true crime you’ll probably really enjoy them, and if you’re
not, at least you won’t feel like you’ve been robbed of your time.
So, this DVD collection contains four crime films (some true, some not)
that range from “okay” to “quite good”. Can I recommend it to anyone?
No: I can’t stomach the thought of playing any part in Screentime and
Roadshow Entertainment making any money off a product that is so
misleadingly labelled. That’s a true crime indeed.