Jack Irish: Dead Point
Written by Ian Collie
Directed by Jeffrey Walker
Available streaming on Acorn.TV
Jack Irish doesn’t just have an incredibly banal, writerly name (it could easily be Reginald Fakename), he has a completely bland existence of the sort that feels carbon-copied from any of dozens of mystery novels, films, and television shows. Jack has it all: a dead wife, a dark past, a former legal career that has transformed into work as a private eye, and rugged good looks that suggest he has seen some things he’d rather forget. Jack Irish: Dead Point is the third time Guy Pearce has played the character (he previously appeared in Jack Irish: Bad Debts and Jack Irish: Black Tide, all based on the series of novels by Peter Temple), and he is completely wasted in the role. Irish doesn’t really emote; he mostly walks through the by-the-numbers plotting as if waiting for the end credits to arrive.
Dead Point follows Jack as he investigates the seeming death of an alleged junkie that quickly elevates into a scheme to blackmail a local crusading judge (Barry Humphries, best known for his work as Dame Edna Everage) who just happens to be his former father-in-law. As he pulls on the thread, Jack discovers the plot involves smuggling, police corruption, and blackmail. While searching for the red notebook that contains the judge’s secrets, Jack also helps a bookie friend track down a violent mugger and romances radio personality Linda Hiller (Marta Dusseldorp). It all goes pretty much as expected.
The TV movie plays like a middling filler episode of a Jack Irish ongoing series, the sort of episode you forget about ten minutes after it airs. The plotting is standard, the acting rarely rises above serviceable (even from Pearce and Humphries, both of whom have done great work elsewhere), and it all feels almost maddeningly inconsequential. If this were a television series, Dead Point’s even-keeled irrelevance would be easier to forgive; after all, there would be another one next week. But as part of an ongoing series of TV movies that seems patterned on BBC’s Sherlock, the movie comes to feel sort of pointless. It isn’t part of a larger arc for Irish as a character (or, if it is, it plays such a small part of that arc it is not noticeable), nor is it a compelling enough mystery to justify its existence as a stand-alone adventure. It barely even coheres as a mystery. It is mostly just a series of things Jack Irish does that might make his life seem exciting and dramatic if he wasn’t so bored by all of it.
Dead Point has its virtues, modest though they may be. Pearce and Dusseldorp have good chemistry, and they share a few scenes that hint at a larger, more rewarding relationship between the two, though this is never given enough time to develop. Similarly, Jack’s relationship with the judge has great potential, but mostly exists on the sidelines of a rather drab series of investigative encounters. The world around Jack Irish is worth developing, and future installments in the series (a fourth film is already planned) would benefit from building out these characters and their relationships. There’s nothing wrong with Jack Irish himself, either. He is the sort of hero we have seen about five million times before, but there’s a reason this type has become a trope: it works. If he were more compellingly written or slotted into a more intriguing mystery or a tenser thriller, his banalities might be less noticeable. But thrown into the midst of something as inconsequential as Dead Point, he becomes the stale center of a hackneyed story. The whole thing could really use a shot of life.
-“If assholes could fly, this’d be an airport.”
-”Shame they don’t have races with just one horse in them. Just to be sure.”
-“Just to let you know, I don’t have three sets of cutlery.”