By Erin Free

White Meat CoverWHAT’S IT ABOUT?

Created by veteran crime author, Peter Corris, Sydney private investigator, Cliff Hardy, is one of Australian crime fiction’s pre-eminent figures. Featuring in over thirty books, Hardy is a weathered, world-weary PI with a fixed moral code, an uncompromised sense of decency, a mean right hook, and a habit for getting up to his bottom lip in shit. From his office in Sydney’s infamous Kings Cross, Hardy – a tough, boozy, Maroubra-born ex-boxer and war veteran who smokes roll-your-owns and laments a long-dead marriage – takes on whatever cases come his way, and while he often ends up bloodied and bruised, his romantic spirit and laconic but knightly attitude (the influence of Raymond Chandler’s famous private eye, Phillip Marlowe, is profound) always remain intact. Though introduced in 1980’s The Dying Trade, Corris’ follow up novel, White Meat, is far more impressive. When wealthy bookie, Ted Tarelton, hires Hardy to find his wayward daughter, Noni, the PI is led to the ragged waterfront suburb of La Perouse, and then into a labyrinthine case involving a clan of rough-hewn Aboriginal boxers, a crew of mobsters, a betting scam, and the singularly messed up life of Noni Tarelton, who eventually ends up a kidnap victim.


It’s been a long, long time since we’ve had an Australian movie franchise, and the iconic Cliff Hardy would make for a great series character. He’s funny, smart, rebellious, and sexy in the kind of battered and wholly Aussie way that could prove popular with local audiences. Though played brilliantly by Bryan Brown in 1984’s otherwise horribly disappointing The Empty Beach, the rugged, big hearted Cliff Hardy richly deserves another crack at cinematic greatness.


With his 2000 debut, Chopper, Australian writer/director, Andrew Dominik, proved himself a master at dealing with violence and criminality, and he could bring a dark intensity to White Meat, punching up the book’s brutality, intensifying its complex themes, and updating a few outmoded minor elements. Dominik also has a strong facility for gallows humour, which would be just right for the bitingly funny Cliff Hardy.


A big name would best fill Cliff Hardy’s well-worn shoes, and who better to play a brawling, enterprising, hard-drinking Sydney private eye than Russell Crowe? His rugged, masculine charisma would be perfect, and would instantly give the project a sense of gravitas. In a nod to his fine turn in The Empty Beach, Bryan Brown could play compromised bookie, Ted Tarelton, while his own daughter – talented actress and filmmaker, Matilda Brown – could essay the wild and dangerous Noni. Minor supporting roles, meanwhile, could go to Joel Edgerton (as Noni’s actor boyfriend); Bran Nue Dae’s Dan Sultan (as La Perouse boy, Jimmy Sunday, who gives Cliff his initial tip-off); Anthony LaPaglia (as a tough talking mob boss); and Vince Colosimo (as Primo Tomasetti, the tattooist who rents Cliff the Kings Cross car space for his beloved Ford Falcon).


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