If crime stories are your thing, watch ‘Catching Milat’

Poster for 'Catching Milat'

Crime stories are popular, no doubt, and if you like to watch true crime, consider ‘Catching Milat’. It’s a story Americans may not have heard of, and it will for the most part hold your attention. Top of the reasons making this a good production is the excellent performance delivered by Australian actor Malcolm Kennard.

Malcolm Kennard plays serial killer in 'Catching Milat'
Actor Malcolm Kennard brilliantly portrays a serial killer in ‘Catching Milat’. (Image: IMDB.com)

We watched the two-part Catching Milat on Amazon Prime. The original episodes were filmed in 2015, and they’re an Australian production. For some reason, the Aussie accent is easier for my ear to follow than British accents. I don’t know why.

Filmmakers chose to focus as much on the criminal justice process and investigation as they did on the serial killer dubbed “The Backpacker Killer’ by some media. The highway the killer used for his hunting grounds, the Hume highway, is a major roadway and it appears it was very popular with hitchhikers in the early 1990s and 1989 when the killer Ivan Robert Marko Milat was active.

The angle filmmakers took can at times be bothersome. A lot of attention is focused on disputes between the lead investigator Clive Small (played by Geoff Morrell) and detective Paul Gordon (played by Richard Cawthorne). There’s a bit too much melodrama in Gordon’s character as he constantly agonizes over the grief experienced by the victims’ families and as he frequently bucks Superintendent Small. Authorities took heat from the public as the case progressed, and had it not been for one particular witness who was very lucky, the killer might have gotten off with a lighter sentence.

There’s a significant contrast between the victims and their killer. The victims are young, idealistic, and trusting. The killer is skilled at exploiting the naivete of his victims, but the individual who takes home the acting trophy is Kennard who manages to convey the light and the dark in a person whose social skills led so many to trust him on short notice.

It’s hard for me to stick with most content on TV or streaming sites, but I stuck with this one. I wasn’t familiar with the murders and as I said, Kennard’s talents just pulled me in. It gave me chills just to watch Kennard depict the real murderer.

I’d give the production 4 points out of 5. It dwells a bit too much on the conflict between the detective and his superior and risks over-dramatizing displays of grief by some of the parents although I sympathized deeply with them. We don’t see much of the victims’ lives or personalities before their demise, and I think being able to empathize in a more immediate manner would’ve made the production stronger. I’d like to have seen a bit more about the murderer’s upbringing—he had 13 siblings and some of his brothers, like the murderer, were repeat offenders.

The production isn’t gory; little is seen of the actual actions by the killer as he sexually assaulted both male and female victims before slaying them.

An interesting note of trivia is posted at the IMDB page for Catching Milat:

“The actor, who plays the serial killer Ivan Milat (Malcolm Kennard) has revealed he had been hitchhiking along the Hume Highway in the late 1980s and early 90s when Milat murdered seven backpackers and is suspected of killing more.”

(Kay B. Day/Aug. 3, 2020)

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