You’ve gotta hand it to Writer, Director, Actor Kick Gurry (Sense 8, Barons, Edge of Tomorrow, Tangle)…. C*A*U*G*H*T is the most outrageous local comedy you’ll see this year.
Part knockabout comedy, part comedy of errors, it is a full-throttle assault of celebrity, social media and hostage misadventures.
The 6×30 series begins with imprisoned ADF soldier Rowdy (Ben O’Toole) offered a deal by the Minister of Defence (Erik Thomson) a secret mission to the war-torn Indo-Pacific island nation of ‘Behati-Prinsloo’ to delete sensitive files from the phone of a princess.
Joining him on the covert operation are comms expert Phil (Alexander England), deep cover specialist Dylan (Kick Gurry), and beefy Albhanis (Lincoln Younes).
But the mission goes belly-up when they are captured by a troupe of freedom fighters who mistake them for Americans.
They are Shammi (Mel Jarnson) and Mamolo (Dorian Nkono) who, with their fearless leader Director Bustard (Fayssal Bazzi), sorta resemble Middle Eastern gunlords, initially intent on killing them -except that everybody loves Aussies.
“They’re fools, idiots, they think everything is a joke,” Mamolo concedes.
It’s up to the guile and nous of Rowdy to propose a convincing hostage video and share the freedom fighters’ message to the world. It’s a ballsy move (fittingly, there is even nudity, prosthetic penis and arse-in-face to match the tenor of the mayhem).
Their hostage acting is, at least, more convincing than Johnny Depp and Amber Heard apologising for Pistol & Boo misdemeanours.
“We want that tape to go viral.. this right here is how we change our lives,” they insist.
In the middle of this frenzy are some wild cameos, several of which are distracting in their star power.
You’ll spot Karl Stefanovic, Ally Langdon, Brooke Boney, Sarah Abo all in their Nine skins as news and breakfast presenters. Sean Penn (who is also an executive producer) plays himself as a visiting Hollywood star… but Bryan Brown is an ocker Prime Minister, while Susan Sarandon is the US Secretary of State on zoom.
It’s a tad confusing trying to discern who is playing themselves and who is a fictional character.
Matthew Fox is also a loud, chewing-gum US soldier joined by (Aussie actor) Jeremy Lindsay Taylor. Given the tale likes to pull the rug out from under you I wasn’t sure if JLT was supposed to be American, or someone faking being an American?
But there is boisterous chemistry between the four hapless Aussies as they beg, plead and connive their way out of certain doom at the hands of their captors. O’Toole makes for the determined brains of the outfit who, in episode two, gets a more layered context that underpins his desperation.
Meanwhile the activities of the Aussies, from the PM’s office to the Ministry of Defence to the media, are equally larger than life and demand patience to grasp how they fit into this cornucopia. You’ll also spot Nick Hammond, Travis Fimmel, Rebecca Breeds, Bella Heathcote and even UK actor Tuppence Middleton.
Does it all hang together? Yes. No. Sometimes. There’s plenty of comment on viral videos, our Insta-culture and hashtag-loving selfies which hits home.
But the narrative of the hostage video element drags (I wasn’t convinced it sustained more than one episode) and the scenes in the fictional ‘Behati-Prinsloo’ are so tightly shot it’s obviously been simulated on a low budget.
Nonetheless you have to admire the gumption of Gurry & co. for a concept so out there that it took Stan to embrace it (this follows the wildly-conceived Nude Tuesday in 2022 -a whole film in gibberish). And kudos for hitching such star power to the project.
There will be those a bit perplexed by its unforgiving, boots-and-all concept, and those who are ready for breakneck television unlike anything else on offer right now.
C*A*U*G*H*T screens Thursday 28 September on Stan.