Tony Martin and Hugo Weaving in The Interview (1998)


(director/writer: Craig Monahan; screenwriter: Gordon Davie; cinematographer: Simon Duggan; editor: Suresh Ayyar; cast: Hugo Weaving (Eddie Rodney Fleming), Tony Martin (John Steele), Aaron Jeffery (Wayne Prior), Paul Sonkkila (Detective Inpsector Jackson), Michael Caton (Barry Walls), Peter McCauley (Deputy Inspector Hudson), Leverne McDonnell (Solicitor); Runtime: 103; Cinema Guild; 1998-Australia)

“It is chillingly photographed by Simon Duggan, giving it a retro-noir film look.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

‘The Interview’ is a frightening mystery tale about the way the police conduct a criminal investigation as they try to find the truth. It builds in intensity for the desperate man being questioned and the desperate detectives asking the questions. They keep the viewer riveted to their seats as the twists in plot and one’s perceptions about the case are subject to constant change, in this excellently conceived Australian psychological thriller. What is the truth can only be surmised by the film’s end, but enough is revealed so that you think you know the answer.

Two detectives, Detective Sergeant John Steele (Tony Martin) and Detective Senior Constable Wayne Prior (Aaron Jeffery), unnecessarily break down a suspect’s door, tear up his place, and use Gestapo tactics to rouse him from his sleep and charge him as a suspect in a car theft. The suspect is the nondescript looking Eddie Rodney Fleming (Hugo Weaving), who has been hassled in his plain one-room apartment.

They interview him formally in the station-house while not telling him what he is charged with and fail to read him his rights. Detective Prior threatens, intimidates, and cusses him out; while the senior detective badgers the suspect in a chillingly calculated way and tries to pin a series of murders on him. It turns out that the owner of the stolen car is missing, and the detectives believe that their suspect is the guilty party. They have very little to go on, as they hold him for 5 hours of questioning without even feeding him. When the unemployed man on welfare calls for a solicitor, the lady solicitor tells him not to say anything — they will have to either charge you or let you go in a reasonable time. Because of the way the Australian legal system operates, she can’t stay with him during the interview. If she did, she could become a potential witness for the prosecution on a subpoena. This leaves the very edgy and very talkative suspect alone with the two detectives.

The hidden personal agenda by those in the police department, results in the internal affairs bureau secretly videotaping the interview because of Steele’s previous use of ruthless but effective methods. They fear because of his illegal methods of investigating, already too many of his cases were thrown out by the courts. When the detectives finally get the suspect to confess, he can’t shut up and gives them a number of serial killings he said he did. They, at this time, treat him to a sumptuous feast. But the bad news is the internal affairs investigators rule that they can’t accept the confession because it was given under duress, and therefore the suspect is set free.

Though the film might not be startling or flamboyant it is competently acted, especially by the two main antagonists, Hugo Weaving and Tony Martin. It is chillingly photographed by Simon Duggan, giving it a retro-noir film look. The first-rate script has us sympathetic to the suspect for being unfairly grilled, but that changes because of the ethics investigators trying to railroad an instinctively good street detective and making him their sacrificial lamb.

Director Craig Monahan has co-written the film with his police technical adviser, Gordon Davie. He has created a Kafkaesque atmosphere of paranoia that turns out to be right on the money. The dilemma is that a psycho serial killer has been set free because of this bickering in the police department and the misuse of police powers. A good lesson for the modern Western world to be facing up to, as criminal investigation methods by the police are constantly under scrutiny in democratic countries; or, at least, they should be.