RATS IN THE RANKS

 (Bob Connolly,Robin Anderson, Australia, 1996) 97 minutes

RATS IN THE RANKS

Directors: Bob Connolly, Robin Anderson
Producers: Bob Connolly, Robin Anderson
Screenplay: Bob Connolly, Robin Anderson
Photography: Bob Connolly
Editor: Ray Thomas
Music: Robin Anderson
With:
Mayor Larry Hand, Cr Nick Origlass,
Cr Neil Macindoe, Cr Trevor Snape,
Cr Helen Stiles, Cr Bob Heffernan,
Cr Kate Butler and other councillors
and staff of the Leichhardt Council

Reviews and notes

In a bumper year for Australian movies, there's none funnier, bolder or more revealingly conversant with human nature than Bob Connolly and Robin Anderson's RATS IN THE RANKS, an amazingly frank behind-the-scenes account of finagling in local body politics. If you ever doubted that the business of politics is politics, this is the movie to put you right.

Connolly and Anderson, who provided lucid documentation of New Guinea tribal politics in Joe Leahy's Neighbours and Black Harvest, now provide an equally lucid, round-by-round account of a machiavellian power struggle within the council of Leichhardt in Sydney. The popular, three-term mayor, Larry Hand, faces a challenge from those on the council who feel it is time someone else had a turn.

After months of deal-making, surprise defections, surprise candidacies, flies in the ointment and arias of well-honed personal invective. the contest narrows down to a head-on-head encounter with the Australian Labor Party candidate Neil Macindoe. Fortunately for Mr Hand the Labor group on the council is riven - is anyone surprised? - with longstanding and intense personal animosities. His one hope of retaining his job is to exploit this split.

The relish with which His Worship sizes up his chances, schemes his scheme and sets it in motion is exhilarating or alarming to behold, depending on your point of view. The film's unblinking, unjudgemental coverage of Hand's outrageous manipulation is like a litmus test, bound to separate the idealists from the pragmatists in its audience. However you look at it, though, this upfront and personal view of politicians in action is remarkable in its openness. Though several of the participants must be wondering why they ever allowed Connolly and Anderson behind the closed doors, it's to their great credit that they did.
-Bill Gosden, Wellington Film Festival, 1996.

Weblink: Review by Janet Maslin

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