Given the recent discussion here about “Underbelly” and that it’s just been announced that Bud Tingwell is now permanently resting between engagements, I think it’s an opportune moment to revisit Uncle Bud’s performance as a really good bad guy in a tasty little and sadly neglected Australian crime flick, “The Money Movers.”
(1978. Colour. Script: Bruce Beresford. Direction: Bruce Beresford. Cinematography: Donald McAlpine. Score: NA.)
In the special edition 30 years on bonus special features docu, Bryan Brown shrewdly observes that MM was Australia’s “Reservoir Dogs” long before “Reservoir Dogs”. While it lacks Quentin’s smartarse flashbacks and flashforwards, MM has a very similar plot. And much tougher acting.
A bunch of crims planning a big heist, a mole in there somewhere and a bloody fucked up finale. And a much more squirmy torture scene, not least because lovable Uncle Bud is calmly and judiciously overseeing what happens when a pair of boltcutters explicitly meets a pair of feet. Yep this is the original “toecutters” flick. No namby-pamby cutaways to a dancing Michael Madsen, just an intense business negotiation. Conducted on plastic sheeting to protect the carpet.
Bud’s not the only well known Australian actor appearing against type in this tight and gritty thriller. Bruce Beresford had just returned to Australia and not seen much local TV for quite a while. So he cheerfully cast a lot of well-known faces without realising the characters they had built up in various comparatively innocuous TV series. And the actors apparently leapt at the chance to get down and dirty.
So MM features a whole bunch of veteran TV players like Bud, Terence Donovan, Tony Bonner, Ed Devereaux, Terry Camilleri and even Lucky Grills all gleefully swearing their heads off and rooting and shooting all over the place. And yes an excellent Bryan Brown performance before he started impersonating himself.
It’s one of very few Australian films where the dialogue in a daily workplace and of people under pressure sounds utterly believable. OK it’s the late seventies so the backchat and body language between the sexes is not all that PC these days (Watch Lucky Grills’ wandering hands. I suspect he wasn’t really acting at all) – but it all rings quite true for the time.
Another charming thing about MM is that it was based on a true story filtered through some intriguing possible bullshit. Specifically a novel by Devon Minchin who ran a security company in Sydney that was robbed in very similar way to the MM story. Some have speculated that Devon himself was in on the heist and wrote about it as a veiled taunt.
MM certainly depends on inside men and insurance company shenanigans as part of its plotting. But basically it’s a sharp, fast and bloody noir (albeit in Sydney sunlight) thriller bristling with Australian criminal machismo, triple crosses, quirky little touches and eye wrenching 70s décor.
And Uncle Bud Tingwell as one of the suavest criminal masterminds ever to grace a local film and keep the other bad guys on their toes. Or not as the case may be. Wherever you are now Bud, I’m sure everyone is tapping their feet along with you…whether they want to or not.
GrogFlog’s verdict: “If one of your mob told me, "Good morning," I'd put on my pajamas and go to bed. " 7 out of 10 toes.
Coming soon: “You will if you stick me with me darling.” – Lucky Grills (trad arr.)