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“All you gotta do is smack him on the head with a baseball bat, stuff him in a hessian sack and mail him back here COD.”

Christopher Skase wasn’t a very popular man in Australia, being responsible for a large number of people losing large amounts of money. For those unfamiliar with the infamous business tycoon, he was the man behind a company named Qintex during the 1980s, using the business as a front to lure investors. He even outbid Rupert Murdoch for ownership of MGM at one stage before the inevitable happened; his company collapsed. Now Chrissy was a clever man and fled the country quick smart, holing up on the island of Majorca off the coast of Spain. There he fought off extradition attempts with claims his chronic asthma would claim his life should he ever board an aircraft. People wanted their money back and Skase couldn’t and/or wouldn’t pay up. Think that sounds farcical? Believe me, there plenty more where that came from.

The film focuses on one group’s attempts to bring him back to Australia and eventual justice. Based on actual events, the whole idea of a handful of people chasing Skase with a bounty on his head did seem quite extraordinary. But Peter Dellasandro and his men had other ideas.

It all starts when Andrew Denton (a popular media personality who had his own variety show during 1995) dreams up the idea of a telethon to encourage people to send in some money so that a bounty hunter could bring back Australia’s most wanted man. The film uses footage from Denton’s comedy program to highlight just how funny the whole situation turned out to be. Peter Dellasandro had been watching these shows and believed Denton was on the right track. He quickly commandeered the microphone during a meeting with shareholders and drummed up the support of all those after their money.

The man himself
Enter Danny D’Amato Jr., who teams up with Dellasandro and hatches the plan to crash one of Skase’s lavish parties over in Majorca to get the man back. Also joining the team is computer nerd Sean (Torquil Nelson), clumsy driver Dave (Nick Sheppard, who used to play guitar for band The Clash), electronics whiz Rupert (Adam Haddrick) and old military man Vendieks (Bill Kerr). Together these guys drum up the courage to train hard in order to bring back their target and become local heroes.

As if one villain wasn’t enough, Eric Carney, host of “reality” television show The Debt Collector is hell bent on forming his own band of merry men and kidnapping Skase. Played by Craig McLachlan (of Neighbours fame for all you soapie fans out there), Carney is used to provide many of the laughs during the first half of the film. And to good effect. McLachlan seems to enjoy his turn at being the smug nasty-boy among a group of ambitious Australians.

The two most impressive roles are reserved for Lachy Hulme and Alex Dimitriades, who play Peter Dellasandro and Danny D’Amato Jnr respectively. Dimitriades was always the first choice of the writers and Director for the role and his performance is extremely impressive. His timing and delivery is spot on, making best use of the limited number of genuinely funny lines thrown his way. Hulme is also top notch, serving up some stirring monologues that are deliberately tongue-in-cheek. Director Matt George combines some over-the-top action scenes with genuine humour that brings out more than the odd chuckle. The first half of the film is marred only slightly by obvious attempts at cheap laughs, but once the focus moves solely to the story itself the laughs come thick and fast quite naturally.

Good use is made of stock footage of Skase himself and of Denton’s television show to provide those unfamiliar with the story a pretty in-depth background without taking too much of the running time. The film breaks away from anything close to the truth when the group reaches Skase’s party in Majorca, but this is where the fun really starts. The last third of the film moves at a breakneck speed to make best use of several showcase sequences that are really quite impressive. The dinner scene and the laughable dance sequence are not to be missed.

The recent death of Christopher Skase has only served to keep him in the news long enough for this film to become particularly topical. And I don’t think bad taste could really come into it as most people showed a blatant dislike of the man anyway. In a recent interview with Australia’s Empire Magazine Matt George was asked the question about whether Skase was a touchy subject and even he admitted that “doing a movie (on Skase) would be like dropping a bomb on a bomb.” Nevertheless, the fact that the film isn’t really about the man himself, rather the group that decides to go after him is enough to dissuade those who think that the whole schemozzle would be best left alone. The humorous nature of the script really does help to move away from a biting biopic and into the plain old good fun category.

Let’s Get Skase makes best use of the Australian sense of humour to bring us what is a slow-starting, fast-finishing comedy. The quest for the “bulls*** artist” is an example of what kind of film can be made with a limited budget but unlimited amounts of energy. Think Sneakers meets The Full Monty. Enough said.  

Peter and Danny meet
Roadshow have taken pride in their local product, one that they backed from the outset. This transfer, presented in something roughly resembling 2.35:1 and 16.9 enhanced, is not without its flaws but is not particularly distracting either. The stock footage of Denton’s show and Skase himself is of a lesser quality than the rest of the film but this is to be expected, both because of the source material and the aesthetic choice from the Director so that the clips were distinct from the rest of the movie. Sharpness is maintained throughout even though there is a fair amount of grain present. Aliasing creeps up only a couple of times and doesn’t distract from the action. Colours are OK without being too impressive, so the overall transfer is just a touch above average.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is quite good for this flick, even though most of the action and dialogue takes place in the front section. Dialogue is clear most of the time, although there were a couple of times during the initial voiceover where the words were drowned out a little by the music. There are also obvious signs of voices being re-dubbed during the editing stages, which is probably to be expected with a lower budget flick such as this one. The music is quite good and I particularly enjoyed the simple little ditty used at the beginning of the film and in other parts throughout. Craig McLachlan had a hand in many of the musical numbers used and has done quite a good job of making them sound impressive and appropriate to the movie. Overall a decent effort.

Only a limited selection of extras for this one, which is a little disappointing considering this was a local film. Nevertheless, there are a couple of supplements worth a look.

The commentary track with Director Matt George and writer/actor Lachy Hulme is quite enjoyable to listen to. There’s something about commentary tracks with Australian filmmakers that makes them a little different than the usual fare. They seem to impart some unusual information about the production and pull no punches when taking the mickey out of themselves or their fellow cast and crew members. This film and the underrated Muggers are perfect examples. Hulme and George seem very comfortable with each other and use the track to impart a lot of good information to fans of the film. Well worth a listen. Interestingly there’s no mention of the commentary in the special features section, only in the sound menu.

The only other meaningful extra is a collection of deleted scenes that are thrown together into one long piece. The clips are of pretty poor quality but they have at least been included on the disc. There’s a side story about Peter’s debt, a conversation with Eric Carney, Dellasandro and a cameo appearance from the delectable Tottie Goldsmith as Eric’s wife. Poor Tottie was cut out of the flick but it’s good to see her here anyway. There’s also a couple more monologues, some new plot lines and an extended scene. Total running time is around 17 minutes. There’s no explanation as to why these were deleted but they all seem to drag a little and would’ve slowed the pace of the film considerably.

The only other extra is the theatrical trailer. Overall a pretty sparse extras package even though the commentary track is well worth a listen.

Official conman-fighting uniform
You have to admire the makers of this film for going after one of Australia’s most interesting and infamous personalities. The end result is a highly amusing film that doesn’t resort to questioning political agenda or the legitimacy of Skase’s claims. The acting is quite good and the budget has been used very effectively to create a visually interesting kidnap comedy. The video is only slightly above average, the audio is pretty good and the extras are pretty minimal, but on the whole this is well worth a look.

Note: This title has been delayed by Roadshow due to unknown problems. Look out for the disc on shelves and online shortly.