On his first day in the police force, Constable Neville Ross (John Hargreaves) learns the ropes from Sergeant Dan Simmonds (Peter Cummins), an experienced officer who hates corruption but never pays for a hamburger.
When two women come to report a wife-beater, the sergeant gets the victim to strip off part of her clothing, saying her bruises must be photographed. Marilyn Carter (Jackie Weaver) thinks the request is legitimate, but her older sister Kate Mason (Kate Fitzpatrick) recognises the sergeant’s sexual motive but plays along.
When Marilyn’s husband Kenny (Martin Harris) refuses to let her take her furniture, the sergeant arranges for a removalist, Rob (Chris Haywood), to visit their flat.
Kenny knocks Rob down as the policemen and the women arrive. Sergeant Simmonds warns Kenny about his abusive language, and then punches him, ordering Ross to handcuff him. The violence escalates as Kenny provokes the older cop.
None of the others tries to stop the beating. Eventually, Constable Ross joins in but goes too far and panics when he thinks he has killed a man on his first day as a policeman.
Sergeant Simmonds warns of grave consequences, but as the two police officers argue, Kenny gets up again.
He and the two cops settle their differences over a beer. Kenny then drops dead, and the film ends with Ross and Simmonds beating each other to mitigate their guilt.
The Removalists had been the breakthrough play for Aussie playwright David Williamson.
But while the play was a commercial and popular success, the film version was not, and by September 1980, it had not recovered all its production costs.
This is largely because the film is very theatrical. Most of the action is contained within the frame, creating the effect of the proscenium arch, and there are few exterior shots (sets were used instead of real locations).
The actors’ movements are also theatrical at times.
The theme music for the film was composed and performed by the legendary Australian jazz group Galapagos Duck.
Constable Neville Ross
Sergeant Dan Simmonds
Rob the Removalist