It only took a year of legal wrangling but tonight we finally got to meet the man over whom all the fuss has been made. Andrew Fraser. High-flying lawyer to the low-rent criminal elite of Melbourne. And inmate serving 7 years in prison. "Somebody screwed you good and proper", he's told when he enters maximum security for the first time. The only question is, who screwed him? The career crims he represented? The police he took pleasure in frustrating at every turn? His well-to-do family or his even more well-to-do colleagues? Or was it himself? I guess we'll find out soon.
We first meet Fraser in prison looking back at his life and likely asking himself the same question. He's a broken man at the pointy end of a riches-to-rags story. David Wenham is almost unrecognisable in these scenes. He's a million miles (and a six-pack) away from Dilios of 300, which is the last time I caught him (surely CGI was used in either that one or this one).
He's also a million miles from 1985, which is where Fraser's rise (and fall) begins. The Andrew Fraser of 1985 is, as he describes himself, "a silver tongue with a silver spoon": cocky, wealthy, sexy (for 1985) and is really good at what he does. Which is to defend criminals. And not just any criminals but some of the most infamous criminals in the country's history, including crime boss Lewis Moran and the drug dealer and "psycho dressed as a clown" (great line), Dennis Allen. We all understand that everyone needs representation but Fraser takes pleasure from the task. He enjoys defending them and sticking it to the cops any chance he gets. It's like a calling for Fraser. Kath Pettingill, Dennis's mother, tells him when they first put him on retainer: "We want more than your f#*!ng card Mr Fraser. We want you. Body and soul." And body and soul is what he (unfortunately) gives them.
But his clients freak his family out and his colleagues as well. "The partners and I are are a little edgy by the low-rent clientele cluttering the place." They also freaked me out. Particularly Richard Cawthorne's Dennis Allen. Cawthorne's gripping performance has to be considered one of the best ever to hit our small screens. I'd say his psychopathic dealer/killer is up there with John Jarratt's Mick Taylor in Wolf Creek and even David Wenham's-own Brett Sprague in The Boys. He's one of the scariest characters in Australian celluloid. He puts the killing into "Killing Time".
Allen is a time bomb that you know will go off at some point or another. You just hope that Fraser's not around when he does. Which is the thing. We should hate Fraser – he's sleazy and arrogant and he's helping some of the worst criminals escape justice. But we can't help but root for him (at least a little bit). We're fearful for him when he has to advise the Iron Bloods or stand up to Dennis (or, frankly, any time he talks to Dennis). We feel his anger when he's told he's not ready for partnership. We're secretly pleased when he succeeds in convincing others to see things his way. We're shouting at the screen telling him not to take the cocaine from Manny the Mutt as a reward for another "not guilty" verdict, knowing full well that he will and in so doing will seal his fate. I think it's a testament to David Wenham's skills that he can make such an unlikeable guy on paper seem worthy of our empathy. I'm happy for him to take me along for the ride downhill.
The other highlights for me from these two episodes were:
Let us know what you thought of the episodes!