The Great Mint Swindle
Todd Lasance, Grant Bowler and Josh Quong Tart as Peter, Ray and Brian Mickelberg. Picture: Supplied

The Great Mint Swindle
SUNDAY, 8.30PM, NINE/WIN

Veteran actor Shane Bourne obviously revels in the role of hard-nosed detective Don Hancock in the WA-made telemovie, The Great Mint Swindle, and he stands head and shoulders above the rest of the cast as he rules the roost over the Mickelberg brothers and his police offsider Tony Lewandowski (John Batchelor).

This story of the fight for justice by Ray and Peter Mickelberg is entertaining enough - but falls a long way short of the Daniel Day-Lewis fight-for-justice classic, In the Name of the Father.

And don't forget that this is a story told from the perspective of the Mickelberg brothers. It has their spin on many scenes.

The fact the Mickelberg saga stretched over more than two decades must have made condensing the story into a 95-minute telemovie something of a nightmare. It bursts out of the blocks with the speed of Usain Bolt and too much is packed into those early minutes, with racy background music and Peter Mickelberg's (Todd Lasance) voice-over setting the scene. Watching actors playing people you have spoken to and known is a strange experience as you spend the early moments considering how close they look to the real person.

Early on we are told how the Mickelberg brothers created a fake gold nugget, how Alan Bond paid $350,000 for it, how stolen cheques were used to buy 68kg of gold worth $650,000 at 1982 prices and how detectives got on to the Mickelbergs for the crime.

Phew.

Soon, a naked Peter Mickelberg is being "interviewed" by Hancock and Lewandowski in a deserted police station.

The inside court scenes look like they were done on the cheap but there is no mistaking the real thing when the story moves to Fremantle Prison. As any tourist will attest, that cell block is imposing enough today and must have been horrific in the 1980s; and that barren exercise yard - with the toilet in the corner where Ray Mickelberg's (Grant Bowler) bitten-off finger ended up - must have been hell in summer.

The turning point for the Mickelbergs came in 2001 when Hancock and his friend, Lou Lewis, were murdered in a car bombing. This left Lewandowski without his police boss to support him. Lonely, depressed and drinking heavily, Lewandowski eventually cracked and confessed that Peter Mickelberg's confession was fabricated and that he and Hancock had lied at the original trial and the appeals.

Roy Gibson is a former senior court reporter for The West Australian who covered several of the Mickelberg appeals.

The West Australian

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