'Jack Irish': The Guy Pearce Comeback You Didn't Know You Wanted

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·Critic-at-Large, Yahoo Entertainment
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Guy Pearce — you know him from Memento and Iron Man 3 — has had an alternate-continent career as Jack Irish, a crime-solver in the Australian TV series of the same name. A new, six-part Jack Irish adventure begins streaming on Acorn TV on Monday, and it’s a good, intriguing mystery.

Irish is a former lawyer and private detective who these days is a stubble-chinned, debt-collector-for-hire. I have no idea how Irish managed to attract his girlfriend, journalist Linda Hillier, played by the exceedingly charming Marta Dusseldorp, whose praises I recently sang in a review of her own two series, Janet King and A Place To Call Home. At the start of the new Jack Irish TV-movie titled “Blind Faith,” Jack and Linda are frosty with each other, and she’s headed off to Manila to write some stories and see if she and Irish care enough about each other to reunite.

Meanwhile, Jack’s back at home in Australia, where he’s hired to find the brother of a wealthy client who — it’s no spoiler to reveal — is not the missing fellow’s brother at all, but rather someone involved in some sort of vindictive religious cult.

The plot developments are a bit foggy in the first hour, but what keeps things interesting is Pearce and his character, a kind of Aussie variation on the brooding crime-solver that pops up over here occasionally — I’m thinking particularly of Tom Selleck’s excellent series of Jesse Stone TV-movies. Like Stone, Irish is an aging loner whose independent-guy routine is becoming more threadbare the deeper into middle-age he gets. It gives Pearce an opportunity to play rueful weariness, which he does very well indeed. And like another well-known TV detective, James Garner’s Jim Rockford, Jack Irish is frequently clueless about the true nature of the mystery he’s solving until he’s taken a few punches to the gut and been lied to by, well, almost anyone, ranging from clients to suspects. Like many a hardboiled private investigator, Irish has a wary relationship with the local police.

The Irish TV-movies are based on Peter Temple’s crime novels, and the dialogue as provided by writers Andrew Knight and Matt Cameron has a pleasing tartness. If you’re looking for mysteries tougher than the procedurals on CBS, this is a fine option.

Jack Irish: Blind Faith is streaming now on Acorn TV.