TV: Rake, Season 1

December 26, 2011 | By

Return to: Home Blu-ray, DVD, Film Reviews / P to R


Film: Excellent/ DVD Transfer: n/a / DVD Extras: n/a

Label: n/a/ Region: n/a / Released: n/a

Genre: Drama / Black Comedy / Television

Synopsis: An unending series of personal and professional crises nearly drive a selfish lawyer to the brink of a meltdown.

Special Features: n/a




The handful Australian TV series that materialize on specialty channels in Canada tend to star pretty models who happen to be coast guardsmen & women, or ranchers in soap opera shells where everyone follows the standard playbook of banal drama.

Rake may be one of the best shows on television, and its absence on the international scene somewhat echoes the initial situation of Doc Martin, which took some time to make its way across several ponds before it too materialized on DVD in various countries; home video may be the best chance the rest of the world has in catching this superb example of character-driven writing, and viciously rude behaviour.

Following the British formula of less is more, Rake runs a tight 8 episodes and could very well have run 16, but by whittling down story ideas to a smaller number, the series’ producers (which include star Richard Roxburgh) mapped out a perfect character arc for Cleaver Greene, a lawyer with a gambling & cocaine addiction that’s somewhat tempered by regular consults with a shrink – ex-wife Wendy (Caroline Brazier), a superwoman capable of separating professional from personal because ‘Cleave’ is such an astounding fuck-up.

He loves his son Fuzz (Keegan Joyce) but creates a greater distance when he attempts a frank intervention after his son is found to be sleeping with his English teacher (appropriately nicknamed ‘the succubus’). Cleave also adores all the women in his life, but he’s unable to latch on to his one true real, former prostitute / legal student Missy (Adrienne Pickering).

While on the rebound, Cleave also sleeps with Scarlett (Danielle Cormack), the wife of his best friend and colleague Barney (Russell Dykstra). The ruinous nature of that drunken event is part & parcel of Cleave’s train wreck lifestyle, goosed by regular beatings from the enforcer of a gambling baron whom he sometimes defends; and a do-good tax lawyer, David (Matt Day), determined to pin Cleave to the wall for tax evasion while he’s pinning Missy against the wall and entertaining a serious marriage proposal.

Storylines include odd murders, tax evasion, property division, an ailing father, swingers, and bestiality – the last one perhaps the funniest of the lot, with venerable Aussie export Sam Neill beautifully underplaying a character who may or may not have questionable fantasies of utterly wrong copulation. Rotating tertiary characters involve his secretary who pilfers substantive funds, the oddballs Cleave encounters while renting the offices of vacationing colleagues, and the odd ex-client whom Missy encounters after she’s decided to abandon her chicken house career.

There isn’t a miscast actor from top to bottom, but Roxburgh owns his role, making an otherwise nearly morally bankrupt cad sympathetic; you wish he’d just stop being an arse, but it’s in his nature to be horrible. Long ago, he came to terms with his karma, and he’s at peace being a whirlwind bastard.

Production values are slick, and the producers have made a point in not showing the eye candy typical of Aussie exports – the natural beauty, iconic marsupials, etc. – but merely filming a barrister at work in a modest city; an everyman who puts himself in extraordinarily idiotic circumstances.

Also unusual (for any series) is the level of frank nudity in Rake – people actually copulate and get out of bed naked like normal humans – of which many lead actors contribute their fair share. The use of music is similarly piquant: often the end credits plays material that’s bitterly ironic or adds the final barb to Cleave’s declining stature in work, friendships, and family. Among the show’s directors is Rachel Ward (The Thorn Birds), and Roxburgh also co-penned a few episodes, reminding film audiences of the deft, wily talent wholly missed in the recent melodramatic dud Sanctum [M] (2011).

Rake is currently available on Blu-ray and DVD in Australia, but hopefully the series will get some international distribution once the second season begins in 2012.

Roxburgh’s other work include the TV series East of Everything (2008-2009) and Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge! (2011)… and unfortunately the American stinkers Mission: Impossible II (2000), The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003), Van Helsing (2004), and Stealth (2005), but let’s pretend none of these films really exist.



© 2011 Mark R. Hasan


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