Dir: Matthew George. Australia. 2001. 100 mins.

The recent death from cancer and emphysema in Majorca of Christopher Skase, fugitive Australian businessman and would-be media mogul (he nearly owned MGM in the 80s), has not stopped the wide local release (October 18, 110 screens) of this loud and rumbustious action comedy in which a smug, evil Skase is seen feigning illness while plotting to take over the world. Although constructed on a witless and often confusing screenplay, Let's Get Skase is packed with raw action and breezy disrespect. Distributors Village Roadshow clearly expect that Aussie multiplex audiences will welcome this chance to mockingly farewell a shared bogeyman. International audiences will find just another smooth super-villain getting his deserts: a far harder sell.

An opening documentary montage gives brief details of the buccaneering Skase and his collapsed Qintex media empire: after that, all is fiction. A sweaty Qintex board in 1995 faces a hostile shareholders meeting which is smoothly ambushed by snakeskin-jacketed Peter Dellasandro (Hulme, who also co-wrote the screenplay) with a gung-ho plan to form a crack team to kidnap Skase from his Spanish island mansion/fortress and bring him back to reveal where he's stashed the missing millions. Although the coiffured Dellansandro is an obvious conman, he's given the commission and proceeds to recruit the most unlikely bunch of international kidnappers since the last cliche-ridden caper flick.

The motley crew includes the son of the Qintex chairman (Dimitriades, glaring intensely) who is blinded by his need for revenge; the getaway driver who keeps crashing cars; the old soldier (Kerr, hobbling grittily) with heart trouble; and the short-sighted computer wizard. Before long, with the help of specialist trainers, our bumbling losers have become The Dirty Half-Dozen, running at Olympic speeds, cracking safes, equipped with an array of spy gadgets to make even Q's mouth water.

All this is achieved by director/co-writer George with panache, heavily indebted to Hollywood formats but with just enough bouncy, blokey Australian cheek to energise the reworked fun. He's supported by a strong team of actors, convincing effects and a booming, zooming soundtrack. So it's a shame about the script.

Lengthy boardroom battles over an alternate rescue team are confused and intrusive. This new team, headed by the host of a smash-'em-up Debt Collector TV programme (McLachlan, having fun with a muscle-bound, image-obsessed television star), somehow takes over the planning but are then sidelined when the Australian government becomes somehow involved. It's a distraction because it's certain the original group will prevail and get to Majorca so the major caper nonsense can begin. While the one-liners stay lifeless, the non-stop action at the high-society-packed Skase mansion is loud, lusty and satisfyingly silly. Australian audiences may well be delighted to see Skase so thoroughly duped, dumped and half-strangled in his own fake oxygen supply. None need know that the real Skase died six years later: painfully, undramatically.

Prod co: Media World Features
Aust dist: Village Roadshow
Int'l sales: Trident Releasing
Prods: John Tatoulis, Colin South, Sue Taylor
Scr: Lachy Hulme & Matthew George
Cinematography: Justin Brickle
Prod des: Ralph Moser
Ed: Michael Collins
Music: Craig Bryant
Main cast: Lachy Hulme, Alex Dimitriades, Craig McLachlan, Bill Kerr