Swift Street, SBS review: first-class crime series

Gritty crime is a genre Australia used to do so well – and this might just be its comeback.

Australian crime drama isn’t all that interested in actual crime these days. Mysteries? Definitely. But stories about people committing actual crimes – especially ones that aren’t murder – are pretty thin on the ground. Enter new SBS drama Swift Street.

There’s a whole range of reasons why this stands out from the local crime drama pack. It’s set in inner-city Melbourne for one, so no scenic rural landscapes to boost overseas sales. It’s a (mostly) serious drama with a 21-year-old lead for another, running against the trend of confining anyone under 30 to soaps or lightweight dramedies. But most of all, it’s a gritty crime series. That’s a genre that Australia used to do so well – and this might just be its comeback.

Elsie (Tanzyn Crawford) is well-versed in the ways of low-level scams and hustles. When she’s not making fake IDs for her bestie Aisha (Bernie Van Tiel), she’s sneaking out the door of her day job with a bag full of off-the-books stock to resell elsewhere. These crimes aren’t lucrative earners, but every bit of profit gets her closer to her dream of having her own – legit – bike stall.

Working on the shady side of the law runs in the family. Her father Robert (Cliff Curtis) is laundering cash for a local loan shark (Eliza Matengu), and she is the kind of crime figure you don’t want to let down (owning a gym full of thugs is rarely a good sign). Which is bad news for Robert, as he’s just lost $26,000 of her money and she wants it back.

You get the feeling that if Elsie was in this situation, she’d find a way to steal the cash out the back of some dodgy local business. Her father? Robert puts on a suit and tie and tries to get a loan. A master criminal he’s not; he’s not even able to handle the household finances, which is causing a bit of friction between him and his daughter. And right now he could really use her skills, because the only way he’s going to get out of the hole he’s in is if they work together.

Set in a world of street hustlers and heavy hitters, Swift Street‘s propulsive storytelling is the blast of fresh air Australian crime drama needs. Propulsive doesn’t just refer to the pace, though this is a series that doesn’t waste time.

Swift Street. SBS.

Elsie is constantly hurtling on her bike down the back streets of Coburg, weaving in and out of the cafes and small shops around Sydney road. It’s a refreshingly authentic setting for this world of scams and petty schemes that verge on the comedic; when the second episode opens with Elsie and Robert trying to rip off a parking garage, it’s a crime that’s both stupidly plausible and one we rarely see on our screens.

It also helps underline the differences between the criminal duo. Robert is old school, struggling to break open a ticket dispenser’s cash box (who pays cash for parking these days?), while Elsie is trying to set up a card skimmer that’ll provide them with some steady income of the electronic variety. But Robert is also a people person, a nice, amicable guy who can talk his way out of trouble. His daughter? She keeps her eyes on the prize.


There’s a number of subplots weaving in and out of their struggles to raise the $26,000. Elsie’s new co-worker Tom (Keiynan Lonsdale) has a shady side – he’s a regular at a local thug-filled gym, and doing side jobs for the gym’s boss brings its own risks.

Elsie’s relationship with boyfriend Tatenda (Alfred Chuol) is under stress, in part because she’s starting to think she might have feelings for Aisha. Robert has his own dodgy mates that are more trouble than they’re worth. And even if they do pay off the money, they’re going to be right back where they started.

Much like Elsie, this is a series that’s always on the move, constantly ducking between character drama, romance, clumsy crime comedy and thriller, held together by a series of thefts and felonies that range from the impressively inventive to downright foolish (does anyone ever successfully get any cash out of a stolen ATM?).

Set in an authentic, recognisable milieu, and anchored by a pair of first-class performances, Swift Street is a charming street-level crime series that deserves to be a hit.

Swift Street premieres on SBS on 24 April with two episodes airing each week at 8.30pm, or you can stream all eight episodes on SBS On Demand.


4.5 out of 5 stars

Swift Street


Tanzyn Crawford, Cliff Curtis, Eliza Matengu, Alfred Chuol, Bernie Van Tiel, Keiynan Lonsdale


Tig Terera, Nicholas Verso

Format: TV Series

Country: Australia

Release: 24 April 2024

Available on:

sbs on demand, 8 Episodes

Anthony Morris is a freelance film and television writer. He’s been a regular contributor to The Big Issue, Empire Magazine, Junkee, Broadsheet, The Wheeler Centre and Forte Magazine, where he’s currently the film editor. Other publications he’s contributed to include Vice, The Vine, Kill Your Darlings (where he was their online film columnist), The Lifted Brow, Urban Walkabout and Spook Magazine. He’s the co-author of hit romantic comedy novel The Hot Guy, and he’s also written some short stories he’d rather you didn’t mention. You can follow him on Twitter @morrbeat and read some of his reviews on the blog It’s Better in the Dark.