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Intensely likable lead character, but less than stellar plots,
This review is from: JACK IRISH, SET 1 (DVD)
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Until I watched these two movies, I'd never heard of Guy Pearce before--I guess I'm just not great at remembering actors names--but he does look familiar. I will say now, however, I'm a big fan of his acting--he does a superb job in carrying (mostly on the back of his very likable character) a rather complex and convoluted plot.
The set contains two roughly 90-minute films. The first, "Bad Debts," introduces the lead character and kind of (and not very well) sets up the backstory. The opening scene (and I won't describe it because it will take away some of the initial drama) shows Jack Irish as a successful criminal lawyer who gives up his career to become something of a lowlife debt collector and general underworld errand boy. The writers did a horrid job of explaining *why* the bad thing that happens to Jack would lead him to give up his law career and I kept thinking they'd get back to that, but they never did. (Don't let this make you think I didn't like the film, I did.) Next an old client of Jack's, and one whose life he helped mess up not just once but twice, is killed after leaving Jack some tense phone messages.
Somehow that incident devolves (and that's the only correct word to describe the plot) into a complex plot involving political and police corruption, old friends, etc. The whole story suddenly gets very convoluted and I found it quite hard to follow. What makes things worse, as another reviewer mentioned, is that some of the actors need voice-acting lessons (I work as a voice actor part time, so they can call me for coaching!): you can barely understand a thing they say. Now, I'll admit that my TV does not have great speakers, but I found myself hitting the rewind button dozens of times to understand what the heck they were saying! And no, I'm *not* turning on the subtitles for people that are supposed to be speaking English! Hey, I grew up in a Brit family and I had no trouble understanding anyone (at least until the Scotch was poured--and yes, that's a joke). Really, I know the Australian accent and some of the phrasing can be a tough road at times, but these guys are one millimeter above mumbling. Blame this on the director: it's his job to make sure that the actors are intelligible. (And also, while I don't oppose sex scenes in movies, the scene in this one was dull, dull, dull.)
OK, the second film is pretty much more of the same. The son of an old family friend disappears (along with some cash) and Jack is put on the case. More of his personal backstory is revealed (his relationship with his father primarily) and you get to see more of Jack's relationship with a cabinet maker for whom he works (he's really an apprentice). I'm not sure if it's ever explained why Jack is working for the cabinet maker other than the fact that he gave up being a successful lawyer.
OK, so, with all those negative things aid, why am I giving this set four stars? Because Guy Pearce does something amazing: he makes a relatively undeveloped character (in terms of writing) impossible not to watch. This is one great actor and one very, very likable character. Plus, I have to say, I *love* seeing Australia up close and I love seeing the gritty sides of places like Sidney. This is the first drama I've ever seen that shows what it's like to live in urban Australia (this is not the Australia in The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert (Extra Frills Edition) which, by the way, is a fantastic movie. This is kind of like Australia meets Manhattan's lower east side. Very gritty, very real--so much fun to watch.
Overall, the acting and the settings won me over and, believe it or not, I rewatched Bad Debts a second time the very next night. So, while the writing needs help and the actors need a dialog coach (badly), I had a great deal of fun watching these movies. Yes, there are gaps in the plot, yes they are slow here and there, but overall, lots of action, lots of fun and one great lead character.