Category Archives: Bryan Brown

Empty beaches: In search of Australia’s fictional private eyes

Empty BeachSeptember 12 marked the 30th anniversary of the release of a little-known Australian crime movie, The Empty Beach. The film fared poorly upon release and is still unavailable on DVD — you’d have to track down a rare second-hand VHS edition to view it.

Nonetheless, the film is something of an obsession of mine and I have been wanting to write about it in detail for a while now. This is partly because I am a huge Bryan Brown as well as always being fascinated with movies that I thinks are good but which have, for whatever reason, sunk into obscurity.

Also The Empty Beach and its source material, the third book in what has become a long-running series by Sydney writer Peter Corris, feature something largely absent from Australian crime fiction and film: the bone fide, card-carrying, full-time private investigator for hire.

I finally got around to writing a piece on the film and its source book for the Los Angeles Review of Books. You can read the essay, ‘Empty Beaches: In Search of Australia’s Fictional Private Eyes’ in full here.

Stick with me son and I’ll make you a star: 5 great Bryan Brown roles

still-of-bryan-brown-in-fx-(1986)-large-pictureOn a whim several weeks ago I re-watched the 1986 movie, F/X. Although largely forgotten now, F/X was a big deal at the time, at least here in Australia. This was mainly because it starred a local actor, Bryan Brown. Brown was working in Hollywood for much of the latter part of the eighties and an Australian star getting top billing in a Hollywood film was not as common as is now. It must have done well in the US, too, because there was a sequel, imaginatively titled F/X 2, released in 1991 and also starring Brown.

The plot of F/X involved an Australian special effects technician, Roland ‘Rollie’ Tyler (Brown), who for some unspecified reason can’t return to home and is making a living working on various B-grade horror and crime flicks in New York. A cop attached to the witness protection program, Lipton (Cliff de Young), approaches Rollie to help out with a senior member of the New York mob, DeFranco (played by Jerry Orbach) who has turned informant. Lipton believes the best way to ensure the mob won’t come after DeFranco is to stage his assassination and he wants to pay Rollie a lot of money to help with the technical aspects of making sure it looks realistic, including acting as the assassin.… Read more

Blood Money and other Australian crime films you’ve probably never heard of

If you haven’t heard of the 1980 Australian film Bloody Money, don’t worry, you’d be in good company. Clocking in at just over 62 minutes, it’s an unpolished little gem of a heist film and almost completely unavailable.

John Flaus plays Pete Shields, an aging Sydney criminal who experiences an emotional epiphany after a diamond robbery he’s involved in goes violently wrong and his doctor informs him he’s got terminal cancer.

Shields returns to Melbourne, his hometown, where he has family, a little brother Brian (Aussie icon Bryan Brown), having trouble going straight, and Brian’s wife, Jeannie. There’s a lot of unfinished emotional business between them, including Shields’s affair with Jeannie years ago that may mean he is father of her and Brian’s daughter.

Pete also has unfinished criminal business with a gang run by Mister Curtis (Peter Stratford). To make sure his brother doesn’t fall back into their clutches, Pete takes Curtis’s gang apart man by man then kidnaps the crime boss’s daughter for a $50,000 ransom.

Blood Money has a definite Get Carter vibe, including the ending where Shields, having exchanged the daughter for the cash, is gunned in a remote quarry.

It’s not the greatest local crime film ever made, but Director John Ruane (who went on to do Death in Brunswick) gives it a grainy realism that draws the viewer in.… Read more

Hunger and other films about doing time

I haven’t spent a lot of time in prisons and don’t want to. But I won’t deny they make tremendous story settings.

This was brought home to me again over the weekend after watching Hunger, Steve McQueen’s 2008 depiction of the final months in the life of IRA militant Bobby Sands. Sands and 9 other IRA inmates staved themselves to death in 1981 in protest against the Thatcher government’s insistence of treating them as common criminals rather than political prisoners.

I recently reviewed Adrian McKinty’s book The Cold Cold Ground, which dealt with a Catholic cop in a Protestant neighbourhood trying to solve a murder against the backdrop of the civil unrest unleashed by the hunger strikes.

Hunger is about what happened inside the walls of the Maze Prison. It’s a visceral, blistering film, all the more so because it’s made with incredible slight of hand.

It opens with the arresting image of a pair of bloody knuckles being soaked in water. These belong to one of the prison guards and were acquired administering incredibly savage beatings to IRA prisoners in response to their “blanket and dirty protests” in which the prisoners refused to wash and smeared shit over the walls of their prison cells. The guard is subsequently murdered in the aged care home where his mother lives, one of 16 guards killed by paramilitaries in retaliation for the treatment of the prisoners.… Read more

The Empty Beach

One local blog I’ve been following for a while now is Permission to Kill, run by my mate, David Foster. Its main focus is all things espionage fiction and film related, but David also covers of on a wide variety of pulp miscellany, including crime fiction and film.

I was particularly pleased to see a recent review on his site of the excellent but little known1985 Australian crime flick, The Empty Beach. Starring Bryan Brown, Ray Barrett, Nick Tate and Belinda Gibbin, The Empty Beach is based on the Peter Corris novel of the same name. David was nice enough to let me re-post his review, which appears below.

Bryan Brown IS Cliff Hardy. It is perfect casting. It’s a shame that this film wasn’t a hit, because I would have loved to see Brown play Hardy again and again. He could be doing it to this day, pumping out a tele-movie each year – and I would be first seated, ready and eager to watch it. But alas, not to be.

For those not familiar with the character of Cliff Hardy, private investigator, he is a creation of Peter Corris and first appeared in the novel The Dying Trade in 1980. Since then he has been releasing Cliff Hardy stories regularly – at least thirty of them – the last I am aware of, is Appeal Denied which was released in 2007.… Read more