Stiff (Shane Maloney) (2004)

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Released 31-Aug-2005

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy Main Menu Audio & Animation
Audio Commentary-John Clarke (Director)
Trailer-Murray Whelan Trailers
Trailer-Piracy Ad, Happy Together, Tais Toi!
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2004
Running Time 92:52
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (54:40) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By John Clarke
Studio
Distributor

Madman Entertainment
Starring David Wenham
Julian O'Donnell
Deborah Kennedy
Robyn Butler
Mick Molloy
Darren Casey
Sam Neill
Denis Moore
Susie Dee
George Prataris
Alan Brough
Tamara Searle
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $24.95 Music Cezary Skubiszewski


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes, Some for-sale items narrated by Murray

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Stiff was the first of two telemovies that screened on Australian commercial television in 2004. Based on the writings of crime/thriller novelist Shane Maloney, Stiff (and its companion film The Brush Off) stars David Wenham as the bumbling, dishevelled Murray Whelan.

    Murray is a Labor party true believer and adviser to Angelo Agnelli (Mick Molloy looking very unlike Mick Molloy in his expensive suit and braces), the minister for ethnic affairs in the Victorian Labor government. Murray's basic job is to run the minister's electoral office, but it seems Mr Agnelli likes to get Murray to do a bit more of his dirty leg work and as such our man is seldom behind his desk, much to the dismay of his second in command Trish (Deborah Kennedy).

    As this film opens we learn that the body of a worker has been found at a local meatworks. The minister is concerned about how the workforce may react to the death and would like to avert any chance of industrial action tarnishing the government. Murray is sent to investigate the death and the company and soon uncovers much more than he was expecting.

    Wenham is excellent as the bumbling Murray Whelan. He's far from a fool - quickly coming to grips with the political and ethnic shenanigans that are occurring around him, but he's also a bumbling, semi-scruffy, disorganised single parent who has more than his fair share of rotten luck - usually because of his own doing. He lives in a wretchedly rundown house and drives a laughable looking clapped-out Renault. He can't keep a girlfriend, can't have a decent conversation with his son when he comes to visit and manages to p*** off his ex-wife despite the fact she lives in another city.

    The writing for his dialogue is top class with some classic droll lines that only director John Clarke could be responsible for. The man who wrote and starred in The Games and who is known for his biting satirical "interviews" with Brian Dawe has come up with some gems in this film. I love the line when Murray and the girl he has a crush on, Ayisha (Tamara Searle), are talking. Ayisha has just spoken on the phone to Murray's ex-wife and says that she sounds like a nice person. Murray replies with a beautiful deadpan delivery that "yes, she's been known to do impersonations."  - great stuff (and a line I think I might remember for future use - oops sorry honey!).

    Where the film stumbles slightly is in the delivery of the overall story to the audience. This is the second time I have watched this movie and I still didn't quite get the gist of the entire plot and how Murray was given free reign to investigate the death at the meatworks so readily. The characters and the dialogue are excellent, but some of the general exposition and plot development occurred a little too fast for my liking.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    This is a pretty decent transfer, with virtually no serious issues to discuss.

    It is presented in the widescreen aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is also 16x9 enhanced.

    All the vision is sharp, detailed and is consistently good throughout. There isn't a trace of edge enhancement and there are absolutely no problems with shadow detail. There is some grain, but it is well controlled and is barely an issue.

    The colours are excellent, with deep saturation and even and consistent shading. Reds and blues come out especially well and the skin tones are perfect.

    There are no MPEG artefacts and video artefacts are also absent. All up, this is a very, very clean image with no problems to report.

    Unfortunately, there are no subtitles available at all on this disc. This is disappointing.

    The disc is dual layered with the layer change at 54:40.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    There are two audio soundtracks on the disc, being an English Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo soundtrack encoded at the bitrate of 224 Kb/s that, despite the surround flag not being embedded in the bitstream, contains enough separation across the front and rear left/right channels to suggest it is surround encoded. It is quite a decent soundtrack with nice bass levels and a pretty full and consistent range.

    Dialogue is extremely important here with a lot of the plot developed by way of phone calls and one-on-one discussion. The odd word or two is a little muffled, more than likely a result of the poor surroundings in which they were recorded (this is mentioned in the commentary). I noticed no obvious audio sync issues.

    There is only minimal surround use, while the subwoofer features no discrete use.



Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Main Menu Audio & Animation

Audio Commentary - John Clarke (Director and Screenwriter)

    A commentary that I was expecting so much more from based on the antics of John Clarke on the many previous shows I have seen. Alas Clarke takes a long time to get going here and for the first part merely describes what is occurring on screen. There's a few laughs, but not as many as I thought as he focuses on the many technical aspects of the shoot such as lighting and sound.

Trailer

    Trailers for The Brush Off (2:21) and Stiff (2:22)

Trailer

    Interestingly the anti-pirate ad that annoys us all when it locks the player at the beginning of many films is included here as a trailer (0:48). Also included are trailers for other Madman titles Happy Together (1:31) and Tais Toi! (2:01).

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    This title has not been released in Region 1.

Summary

    Stiff is a made-for-television film based on the novels by writer Shane Maloney. As the main character Murray Whelan, David Wenham offers a blend of intelligent Australian larrikinism and good-hearted bumbling loser. Murray means well, but is hopelessly dishevelled and disorganised as he is charged with the task of unravelling a conspiracy at a local meatworks.

    The screenplay adaptation by John Clarke (who also directs) is a highlight with some of the droll understated lines of dialogue we have come to expect on the likes of The Games, though the plot development is a little shaky at times. It would be nice to know if the other Murray Whelan thrillers including Something Fishy, Nice Try or The Big Ask are slated for any form of film adaptation.

    The video quality is excellent, while the matrixed surround audio does the job well.

    The extras are limited on this disc, but more are available on a bonus disc if you purchase the title in the boxset with another Whelan film - The Brush Off.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Darren Walters (It's . . . just the vibe . . . of my bio)
Friday, November 25, 2005
Review Equipment
DVDDenon DVD-3910, using RGB output
DisplayLoewe Calida (84cm). Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL). This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL).
AmplificationHarmon/Kardon AVR7000.
SpeakersFront - B&W 602S2, Centre - B&W CC6S2, Rear - B&W 601S2, Sub - Energy E:xl S10

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