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Canberra Today 3°/5° | Friday, August 19, 2022 | Digital Edition | Crossword & Sudoku

When detective Swan gets his badge

Mark Coles Smith plays a younger version of Jay Swan in the “Mystery Road” prequel “Origin”.

“Mystery Road” cop Jay Swan gets his most sophisticated and cinematic outing of to date, says “Streaming” reviewer NICK OVERALL.

BY many accounts, ABC’s brilliant crime drama “Mystery Road” shouldn’t exist.

Nick Overall.

Spanning two films, two television series and now even a prequel story for its central detective, one would think it the stuff of a top-shelf streaming company with millions of dollars to pump into production.

But this captivating Aussie drama, made on a budget that’s dwarfed by the endless catalogue of crime shows today, stands toe-to-toe with any of the big players out there.

That’s thanks to Jay Swan, the indigenous and Akubra-wearing cowboy detective at the centre of “Mystery Road”.

Swan, played by Aaron Pedersen, hooked audiences’ attention with his first appearance in the 2006 film of the same name. He brought a gruff nuance to this country investigator – a man living in a limbo, one caught between cultures, the law and family. 

This crime drama dripping in outback noir stormed up enough intrigue to earn itself a spin-off TV series, one where Pedersen even went on to act alongside Australian all-star Judy Davis in an excellent second season that aired in 2020.

The question then arose, how much juice was left in this tank?

If the now-streaming “Mystery Road: Origin” is anything to go by, the answer is quite a bit yet.

This new series rewinds to 1999 when Swan first earnt his detective badge as a pup cop and when he’s posted to a mining town under siege from a gang of robbers wearing Ned Kelly attire. The twisted infusion of Australiana gives this instalment of “Mystery Road” an especially eyebrow-raising edge. 

Mark Coles Smith dons the Akubra to play the young version of Pedersen’s detective. These were big shoes to fill, but Coles Smith more than brings the gruff. 

The similarities to Pedersen’s performance are so good they at times border on uncanny, yet the young actor also does a remarkable job in making the character his own. His trapping between a cultural divide comes into clearer focus than ever before.

“You policeman or black fella?” a resident of this eerie mining town of no more than 1000 people asks him.

“Why can’t I be both?” Swan asks back.

When on to a success like this, it’s easy for viewer fatigue to set in, but this prequel series is the most sophisticated and cinematic outing of Jay Swan to date, and proves there’s plenty of mileage left yet heading down “Mystery Road”.

Streaming on ABC iView.

STAN subscribers would be remiss not to check out “Doctor Foster”, a British five-parter perfect for a wickedly addictive weekend viewing. 

Suranne Jones stars as the show’s eponymous physician, whose idyllic life begins to fracture after she suspects her husband is having an affair.

On the surface the premise may sound like a standard, soapy plot of infidelity, but viewers will quickly realise it’s anything but.

Inspired by the Greek myth of Medea, this psychological thriller becomes more and more twisted as the sanity of its lead character falls apart, culminating in a truly shocking climax that’ll be sure to drop some jaws.

Impeccable performances, particularly from Jones, make it hard to look away from and while there is a season two that’s far less compulsory viewing, season one stands on its own as a truly first-rate piece of television. Hell hath no fury…

Streaming on Stan.

NETFLIX has just dropped its most expensive original film to date.

The streaming goliath injected a whopping 200 million bucks into “The Gray Man”, a new action romp starring Ryan Gosling and Chris Evans as two globe-trotting spies on the hunt for each other.

Its budget puts it roughly among the 50 most expensive films ever made, yet this flick can’t help but feel like a budget James Bond or Jason Bourne.

It exudes such desperation to set up a squillion sequels that a lot of its own character is lost in the process.

The film is, after all, directed by masters of expansive franchises Joe and Anthony Russo. They’re the fraternal duo behind “Avengers: Endgame”: 2019’s climax of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and one that became the second highest grossing film of all time. Unfortunately, the same magic can’t be found here.

Credit where it’s due, the action in “The Gray Man” is at times impressive but apart from that, this film gets about as creative as its title.

Streaming on Netflix

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Ian Meikle, editor

Nick Overall

Nick Overall

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