If you never saw Richard Roxburgh as Roger Rogerson in ABC’s 1995 miniseries Blue Murder, you missed a career-defining performance.
The good news is you now get to revisit him in Seven’s sequel Blue Murder: Killer Cop. Roxburgh is a knockout all over again as the menacing, corrupt NSW detective-turned-killer.
This new chapter, helmed by its previous director Michael Jenkins, charts the events leading up to his life sentence for the murder of Jamie Gao, with Det. Glen McNamara (Justin Smith). The script by Peter Schreck notes “Blue Murder Killer Cop is a scripted drama not a documentary. Some characters and events have been created for dramatic purposes.”
If Blue Murder took a broader view of NSW Police Corruption, including with criminal Arthur “Neddy” Smith (Tony Martin), then Killer Cop zeroes in on Rogerson with all the notoriety of an Underbelly punch.
It opens with Rogerson imprisoned, eyeballing the camera, remembering how as a young boy he admired the police.
“All I ever wanted to be was one of them. A hero. And I am,” he says.
“I probably know more about criminals than any other 10 blokes in the country.
“There are the facts and there’s the truth and they aren’t always a match.”
In 1989, 3 years after leaving the NSW Police Force, he struggles to make a living as a bouncer at a King’s Cross strip joint. But he keeps his enemies close and the NSW coppers closer, leaning on mates to falsify evidence for cocaine king Michael Hurley (Dan Wyllie).
But Det. Mark Standen (Matt Nable) is on Rogerson’s case, aided by Internal Affairs pursuing corrupt cops Larry Chuchill (Steve Le Marquand) and McNamara, with the latter turning whistleblower on his own. After Rogerson loses his only protection, he goes down with a 3 year sentence for a “dodgy bank account” despite being acquitted of shooting of fellow police officer Michael Drury (depicted by Steve Bastoni in the 1995 original).
Amid the bent storylines and constant malevolence, a romantic sub-plot is forged between Rogerson and local neighbour Anne (Toni Collette).
“You’re Roger Rogerson?” she asks.
“Yes. Guilty,” he admits. “Don’t believe everything you read in the papers.”
Anne is easily charmed by his rogue personality, although it isn’t readily clear why she lacks any doubts. When he is released from prison, Rogerson looks old enough to be her father….
Much of the first part of this two part miniseries is about creating the circumstances to bring McNamara and Rogerson together, given we already know the fatal outcome. Justin Smith is excellent as a nervous McNamara who finds himself in over his head, in this male-dominated story.
But it is Roxburgh who has a field day with his swaggering, morally-bankrupt cop. He throws the Australian vernacular around like the phone books used for bruise-free interviews. He’s in just about every scene and chews up the scenery. Amongst the better scenes is Rogerson turning the tables in a police interview with inexperienced detectives, and the vengeance he wreaks on a Long Bay jail warden.
Also featured in the episode are Damian Walshe-Howling, Toby Schmitz, Aaron Jeffery (as a bikie leader before his upcoming Chopper role), and Emma Booth. Looks for cameos by Chris Truswell and Peter Mochrie.
Tony Martin reprises his original role as Neddy Smith, while Peter Phelps will also return as Abo Henry. The role of Jamie Gao, saved for episode 2, is played by Michael Tran.
There is also select flashback footage of the 1995 Blue Murder, which was held from screening in NSW for so many years. Rightly so, it has since gone on to become one of the most acclaimed Australian dramas.
The sequel stands up well, thanks to retaining its links with director Michael Jenkins and Roxburgh. Commercial break additions aside, it does adhere to the true crime bio-pic path than look more broadly at an era in NSW law & order, with its leading man promoted to anti-hero.
But with Roxburgh’s exemplary talents, who can blame them?
Blue Murder: Killer Cop airs 8:30pm Sunday and concludes 8:45pm Monday on Seven.