Review of Jack Irish

Jack Irish (2016– )
Jack is back!
12 August 2016
Australian author Peter Temple's series of detective novels about Jack Irish have been lighting up television screens since 2012, when the first two adaptations were broadcast. An immediate hit, a third Jack Irish telefilm was broadcast in 2014.

Jack Irish is an emotionally wounded, borderline down-and-outer who had once been a successful lawyer but was professionally and personally derailed when his wife was murdered. Guy Pearce, the star of the JACK IRISH series, brings just the right amount of world-weariness to his role to suggest a classic film noir protagonist. The supporting cast, including Marta Dusseldorp as Jack's on again-off again love interest, Linda (who also stars in two other Autralian series--JANET KING and A PLACE TO CALL HOME) are just as compelling in their own way and the show is as much a series of character studies as it is a detective show.

Now we have JACK IRISH Season 1: BLIND FAITH, the most recent addition to the JACK IRISH canon, which is a six-part mini-series, a format that serves the story well. While not based on one of the JACK IRISH novels, it is as faithful to the original characters as die-hard fans might want it to be. With the increased running time, multiple story-lines can converge and develop without seeming rushed. Given that one of the story arcs focuses on religious extremism, (both Christian and Muslim) it is wise the makers of JACK IRISH recognized they needed a larger canvas to fairly examine the inherently sensitive issues. While it is common these days for people of faith to be portrayed negatively in film and television programs, it is encouraging to see some balance achieved amidst the accusations. Case in point: there is a scene in JACK IRISH--once we've established that a "mega-church" is behind a series of murders and other misdeeds--in which a character points out, while sitting in a soup kitchen, "That fellow there runs this place. He makes $40,000 a year and gives most of it away. He's doing what the others SHOULD be doing." (I paraphrase, but the gist is clear). One can only appreciate such fairness. It is a breath of fresh air, really. Of course, the principle characters are shown specifically to be non-believers, another annoying trend that needs to be addressed in this writer's opinion, but it's a start.

JACK IRISH is notable too for being about people who are older, from forty-somethings, like Irish, to a substantial cast of older, even elderly, characters. The regulars who haunt the bar Irish might call his second home are a great bunch of old codgers. And Irish's furniture-making mentor, an old master by the name of Charlie, whose infinite patience with Irish gives him the much-needed respite he occasionally needs from his problems, is a true rarity on television today. Interestingly, Charlie was portrayed in the first two JACK IRISH films by German actor Vadim Glowna, who passed away before the third film was made. The role is re-cast for the mini-series and features an actor named David Ritchie--who also passed away not long after the mini-series wrapped. Is the role of Charlie cursed? Only time will tell...

While it is not yet known whether there will be more JACK IRISH films/mini-series produced, it's a pretty good bet that there will be. The show is extremely well produced, brilliantly acted, with quirky humour, troubled romance and a world-view that, while sometimes cynical and dark, like the best of film noir, is ultimately life-affirming. Jack is a classic underdog and we want him to succeed, to get his life back together, to rekindle his romance with Linda (Dusseldorp's character).

How many characters on television today do we truly care about? Jack Irish is one of them.
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