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Review: Devils Playground by @NikoleGunn @ShowcaseAus @Foxtel

RecapKevin Perry
Simon Burke starred in the original movie and returns to lead in this version of Devils Playground image - supplied/Foxtel

Simon Burke starred in the original movie and returns to lead in this version of Devils Playground
image - supplied/Foxtel

Devil’s Playground - Movie length premiere Tuesday September 9 at 8.30pm on Showcase. 

Foxtel has been running promos for a few months, generating a buzz for the TV remake of the Australian movie classic, Devil’s Playgound.

Based on the 1976 classic written and directed by Fred Schepisi, the mini-series is set in the churches, schools and the political world of late 80s Australia.

It starts with the disappearance of a student at a top Catholic school. A popular boy and an excellent swimmer.  His body is later found in a lake.  Is it murder or an accident?

Unlike other crime-based psychological thrillers on TV, it’s almost incidental. It’s there in the background, but at this stage it’s not all prevailing, which is refreshing.

Don Hany, Jack Thompson and John Noble, men of the cloth in Devils Playground image - supplied/Foxtel

Don Hany, Jack Thompson and John Noble, men of the cloth in Devils Playground
image - supplied/Foxtel

Instead, we’re taken into the world of political machinations within the Roman Catholic Church, where two Bishops are jockeying for position of power ahead of the retirement of the Archbishop, played by Jack Thompson.

The protagonists are Bishop McNally, who seemingly wants to reform the church by soliciting the help of psychiatrist Tom Allen, played by Simon Bourke from the original movie.  The good doctor has also been having an affair with the mother of the missing boy. 

On the other side is Bishop Quade, played beautifully by Don Hany, a pugilistic priest, who on one hand is a gentle and pious man of God and on the other is a man barely able to contain a burning anger at a world demanding change. 

The producers should be applauded for avoiding the temptation of cheap TV tricks to maintain the viewer’s interest. We don’t need to be hit over the head with the ‘obvious stick’.

Toni Collette and Don Hany are brilliant in Devils Playground image - supplied/Foxtel

Toni Collette and Don Hany are brilliant in Devils Playground
image - supplied/Foxtel

Instead we’re given hints of what may happen. There have been enough ‘paedophile priest’ headlines in recent years to build a foundation of suspicion, but it’s not being overly exploited. It’s just there, much like the disappearance of “Peter”.

Episodes 1 and 2 have been combined for a movie length debut to premiere on Foxtel’s Showcase channel on Tuesday night. The remaining episodes to air over the coming five weeks.

Simon Bourke, Toni Collette, Don Hany and Jack Thompson head a superb cast. Devil’s Playground deserves to be watched and enjoyed, but don’t expect all the answers to be served up on a platter.

Review by Nikole Gunn

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