I must be one of the only people to watch this before seeing The Sopranos, the de facto standard for modern gangster action that everyone raves about, and it was so good that I'm disappointed by Sopranos now I've finally got round to watching it!
The series follows the real-life gangland war that broke out in Melbourne a few years ago. Two of the biggest crime families found themselves feuding over turf in the lucrative drug distribution business and real and imagined slights between rivals on the streets. A tit for tat chain of hits follows as more underworld characters are drawn in by loyalty or the promise of bounty. The Police swooped on the aftermath, breaking down the code of silence as street level criminals facing heavy sentences abandoned their loyalty and turn police informer - bringing the whole deck of cards down and resulting in the surviving bosses facing life sentences.
Lots of fighting, sex, drugs and murder - so be warned.
Underbelly has really raised the bar for Aussie drama. Watching it whilst in Australia and talking to people and seeing little bits here and then in the newspapers and on the news also added a lot of authenticity for me, knowing that not only did this gangland war happen but it was a recent event, with some of the (surviving) characters still very much alive and kicking.
The characters, scripting and screenplay are top-notch and set to a great soundtrack, you know a good gangster film when you you you feel loyalty to men that do evil deeds (like Tony Soprano, Frank Lucas (American Gangster) and Ray Liotta's character in Goodfellas) - so don't be suprised if you find yourself taking sides in the gang war.
Like Flight of the Conchords (NZ comedy series) I don't think underbelly has made it to the UK just yet, not in a big way anyway, so there's a big treat coming for Sopranos fans...