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The Great Bookie Robbery Review

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by AVForums Jul 13, 2007

    OK - confession time. I am not a great fan of modern day TV - in particular, the mini series. I do watch TV of course - mainly sport and movies but the odd series catches my eye. I have, however, never come across The Great Bookie Robbery before.

    An Australian mini series made in 1986, it tells the story of one of Australia's biggest technically unsolved crimes. The reason I say technically will become apparent a little later on.

    Many of you reading this review will be unfamiliar with what The Great Bookie Robbery actually was - so first up, a bit of background history...
    On the 21st April 1976, six gunmen held up more than 50 members of Melbourne's venerable Victorian Club, escaping with several million dollars in untraceable cash. The robbery had been so brilliantly planned and executed that police were left without a single clue - and so strict was the robbers' code of silence that not even the underworld was aware of their identities.

    The men, Raymond Bennett, Ian Carroll, Laurence Prendergast, Brian and Leslie Kane and Norman Lee rented an office in the same building as the club and used it stash the money while they faked a getaway in a van. None of the money has ever been recovered and only one person, Norman Lee, was arrested for the crime but later acquitted. All of the suspects were murdered by 1983 except Lee, who was shot dead by police in 1992. It was actually Lee's lawyer that revealed the identities of those that took part. Which is why the crime remains “technically” unsolved.

    So, there you have Brian's history number 1 on The Great Bookie Robbery - but what about the show itself?
    With a host of Australian stars including John Bach who played Madril in The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy and Ray Meagher who plays Alf in Home And away, The Great Bookie Robbery is gritty, violent and easy to watch. These boys meant business as they go from robbery to robbery with guns ablaze and boots flying. No punches pulled - literally. We have all probably seen most of the other actors plying their trade here but can't remember where from...was it Neighbour's or Home and Away? It doesn't matter - there's not one dodgy performance to be seen. When the boots fly in, I found myself wincing at the brutality of the realism. The direction by Mark Joffe, who went on to direct the Billy Connolly led The Man who Sued God and Marcus Cole, who it seems has never moved away from directing TV shows, is big screen stuff. The spirit of winter 1976 in Melbourne is captured perfectly and they both seem to bring out the best of the cast.
    Point to note with this DVD release though - the names in the mini series were changed to protect the not so innocent. Reason being, believe it or not, is that Norman Lee, one of the guys that took part in the robbery, was actually a consultant in the production! And, if that wasn't enough, Lees house that he owned at the time was used as a location for the house of one of the gang! Hats of to the man I say.
    What it does mean though, is that with the input of one of the actual gang members, what we have here is a very watch able, fast paced, gritty mini series deserving of it's AFI award for best mini series.

    Highly recommended