Review: 'Siege' got it right

By ROGER MORONEY

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As the image of Len Snee - the "mighty totara" who had fallen - dissolved from the screen I could only echo the words of police who had seen the finished cut of 'Siege.'

They got it right.

That opening 13 minutes, before frivolous ads broke the spell, were as unsettling and explosive as anything I've seen.

It was eerie to see the landscape of peaceful little Napier, and that sharply angled street locals call 'Breakneck' as the three police officers embarked on what was effectively a routine door-knock and search warrant serving.

Senior Constable Len Snee, Bruce Miller and Grant Diver had done them before - plenty of them.

But they had never served one on a man like Jan Molenaar whose life revolved around the sanctity of his house, and of his routines.

A shift in that and there would be a resulting shift in his mindset.

The Screentime team got it right.

They cut to the chase quickly - revealing Molenaar's loathing of the Mongrel Mob, of his aggression and his paranoia that one day, his life was going to explode and it would be outsiders, from somewhere, who would light the fuse.

There he was, laying spiked traps in his garden for those outsiders.

And then he went for his regular, routine, walk with his dog. Within all those opening scenes I felt I was not watching actor Mark Mitchinson - I was watching Jan Molenaar.

His performance, and all those which followed across the cast, was high octane stuff.

The three officers greeted each other as they do at the start of another working day, and approached the Chaucer Rd house.

And you knew what was coming. It was so unsettling and powerful, and so strongly recreated.

When the shooting started I suspect the viewing populace had to stop and draw breath.

The terror of it all was portrayed starkly and with real emotional power.

Bruce Miller's desperate call for assistance was chilling, and sparked a flash of bewilderment back at the station before the reality struck hard and the response mobilised.

The heartstopping scenes showing how the injured officers were retrieved from the scene underlined why police and citizens later received bravery awards. Just stunning.

Amidst the excellent script were a couple of brief lines which hit hard.

"Len's dead," one officer said in disbelief.

And in what was now his fortress and as police swarmed into the area, Molenaar quietly said "I'm done...I've had it."

The armed squad at the scene was under fire, and it became clear why police did not return fire - they simply had no idea where the gunman was.

In those early terrifying hours he had the upper hand and sprayed the street, and horizon for that matter, with bullets from his equally terrifying arsenal.

Scriptwriter John Banas did a great job - and explained why certain protocols took place. At the time of the siege people were saying "go in and blast the place" but just what Molenaar had in there was a great unknown...which only gradually began to emerge.

The most chilling sights?

Molenaar when he stalked out on to the decking wearing a Ned Kelly-style armoured helmet...just creepy.

And of Len Snee, alone and lifeless, on that street.

At tense moments the shellfire tally was scrolled onto the screen - "137 shots fired."

Later, it was in the 200s when the police sent two shots back - one wounding Molenaar as he confessed later in a tingling, tense call to police, and his partner Delwyn.

Alone in his wrecked house, which he told police he would never give up and never leave, Molenaar made his final calls, and talked about how he had lost a brother to suicide years earlier. When police finally entered the house they saw the red felt-pen scrawls on the wall - how he was now going to be with his brother.

Miriama Smith's performance as Delwyn was chillingly remarkable.

Screentime clearly did not roll off the throttle anywhere in this valuable production. They got the right actors, the right writers and the right rapport with those who went through it.

One member of the AOS I spoke to recently said he was not happy with some initial scenes involving the squad. They were subsequently re-written.

The pace never let up, and away from the siege face the scenes surrounding the families of the shot officers were tense and well handled.

Vicki Snee's pleas to be told what was happening to her beloved husband were powerful.

"There's been some screw-ups," Inspector Sam Hoyle said as things came to a close, and after sitting through it you could understand that. The situation was so complex, so bewildering and so violent that I doubt there's any simulated course at any police college in the world that's going to set you up for that.

Especially in a close-knit police patch like Napier where everyone knew the good man they lost.

A terrific piece of television production and a part of this community and country's history which had to be told respectfully and honestly. And it has been.

• Siege: The Real Story, TV1 at 9.30pm tonight. This will be chilling and at times tough to take in. It is the very people involved telling, often emotionally, just how it was. On Sunday night you saw the dramatic recreation. What you will see here is all real.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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