Mr. Inbetween and Maniac

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The banality of evil has been making good fodder for comedy for at least a couple of decades now. Tarantino’s the master of the criminal-as-everyman, and Guy Ritchie’s early work fits the bill, but you’ve also got Scorsese, famously, in Goodfellas, having our antihero as worried about the pasta as the cocaine. Australian larrikinism, and our laid-back lifestyle, has fit well with the trope; Chopper and Two Hands offer great examples of criminals who also have to walk the dog, feed the baby and take out the trash. Fifteen years ago Scott Ryan made his own fantastic feature-length take on the sub-genre, The Magician, about a laconic hit-man’s everyday working life. Now he’s teamed with director Nash Edgerton on a very low-key series about the same character. Each episode of Mr. Inbetween (Foxtel) couldn’t be drier, and the predominant tone is melancholy. Ryan remains as charismatic and captivating a screen presence as he was fifteen years ago, and at around twenty-three minutes each, the eps go down easy.

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Maniac, on Netflix, is fresh and hardly banal. Jonah Hill and Emma Stone play troubled souls participating in an experimental drug study in a world that is an alternative to our own, not quite futuristic, nor steam-punky, but recognisably sci-fi all the same. The first couple of episodes are magnificent, but then the series finds a groove that allows for limitless experimentation but very limited stakes (for we spend entire episodes inside the lead characters’ heads and not in reality). The world-building and direction (by Cary Joji Fukunaga, who will direct the next James Bond movie and who directed all of Season One of True Detective) is sublime; the story-telling a little free. Wild and certainly fun, at around forty-one minutes an ep, this is worth at least a visit and possibly a binge.