Guy Pearce is Jack Irish, and he is not your typical private investigator. Adapted from the first two books of Peter Temple’s best selling series, this Aussie noir is pulp fiction for the thinking man!

Although the two stories are separate in so far that each case is different and independent from one another, the main characters in Jack Irish are there to stay. Above all, we get to know the private live of its main hero in all its nuances – some of them light, some dark, and some very dark indeed.

First adaptation, Bad Debts, kicks off with a bang. Several, in fact… and one happens to kill Jack Irish’s wife. That opening scene functions as a ‘prologue’ of sorts, as we get a better understanding of the characteristics and the psyche of our main hero.
Forward to the present, and the former criminal lawyer is a mere shadow of himself, following the tragic death of his beloved. He now spends his days as a part-time investigator, debt collector, gambler, ladies lover, football lover, and apprentice cabinetmaker taught by Charlie Taub (stalwart German actor Vadim Glowna, who sadly passed away after the completion of the second instalment).
With so much going on, one must wonder how Jack Irish finds any time at all to solve tricky cases, and tricky they are.

‘Bad Debts’ concerns a former ‘client’ called Danny McKillop, a guy which Jack defended several years prior on a hit- and run charge, and who’s now sent him a desperate message for help. Alas, since his own tragic past has messed with Jack’s head (not to mention his memory), he doesn’t immediately recall the McKillop case, nor his former client. By the time he does, McKillop is dead. Adamant to find out more about the murder, Jack soon gets a hell lot more than he bargained for! For what starts out as a seemingly straightforward murder case slowly develops into a huge scandal involving a double-dodgy land development deal and – in a subplot – a dodgy horseracing scheme.

Black Tide is even more complex, if that’s still possible! Here, the main plot (as there are always sub-plots as well) involves Des Connors, an old pal of Jack’s father. He’s calling on Jack’s help after his son Gary disappeares, together which a large sum of money he borrowed of Des. Gary also happens to have the grip on his dad’s house, and if he doesn’t show up soon (and the money with him), then Des faces dwelling on the streets sooner than later. But a Jack Irish case wouldn’t be a Jack Irish case if it were a straightforward one. Soon, it emerges that Gary’s disappearance is possibly linked to government corruption and worse – raising the question whether Gary chose to disappear, or was in fact made to.

This is absolute gripping stuff incredibly well acted! Pearce, in particular, is in top-form portraying a tormented soul trying hard to move on with his life while the demons of the past still hold a firm grip on him.
What’s great about Jack Irish is the way it portrays its characters with all their quirks and flaws… there’s the deadpan sidekick Cam Delroy (brilliantly played by Aboriginal actor Aaron Pedersen), pal and collaborator to both, Harry Strang (Roy Billing), mean copper rat Barry Tregear (Shane Jacobson) - a larger-than-life guy more concerned with constantly stuffing himself (and not shying away from certain bodily functions) than helping Jack. Last but definitely not least, there’s leggy blonde journalist Linda Hillier (Marta Dusseldorp), Jack’s new on/off love interest. She can never quite decide whether to completely fall for him or to stay faithful to her own interests and career. We also come to learn that Jack Irish is in fact not Irish, but the great-grandson of a German-Jewish immigrant.

What makes these made-for-TV crime thrillers such a standout (besides a broody title them by Nick Cave) is the way we get to know about Australian life, certainly Melbourne life. A lot of it seems to take place in the pub (and – surprise surprise - with hardly any ‘Sheilas’ hanging ‘round there), on the racetracks, at the football fields. Then there’s the apartments (even the more modest ones seem to be the size of a huge warehouse unit), and above all, the in-your-face crude Australian humour and phrases.
While the emphasis lies on character- as well as plot development, each of the two dramas don’t fall short of action either.
Only minus-point is the overtly complex plots (further complicated by sub-plots), which can get a bit confusing at the best of times. In fact, I had to watch the second half of ‘Black Tide’ twice so as not to lose the plot! But don’t let that deter you, for really, I’m such a simple mind…