Divorcing Jack

Divorcing Jack


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

What will Northern Ireland do when peace breaks out? Make movies about ordinary life? Colin Bateman's screenplay treats the Troubles as an appendage to The Godfather, except he's determined to see the funny side. Cold-blooded brutality and inebriated humour sit uncomfortably together.

In fact, Divorcing Jack looks forward to the future when Ulster has become independent and is electing its first prime minister. You wouldn't notice the difference from yesterday. Paramilitaries have become criminal gangs (when were they anything else?), behaving as badly as ever. Dan Starkey (David Thewlis) writes a column for the Belfast Evening Whatever, in which he lampoons the lot of them. He's not a man who would hold down a job on a modern tabloid. He's pissed before lunch and doesn't work hard enough. Or at all.

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After a boozy party - his, as it turns out - he finds himself astride a sexy student (Laura Fraser) on the sofa in her warehouse apartment. Things go from bad to two floors down. His wife (Laine Megaw) walks out. His life is threatened. He has to act as nursemaid to a visiting American reporter (Richard Gant). Nice people are killed. He finds himself on the run from local hardman, "Cow Pat" Keegan (Jason Isaacs) and the cops. And he still can't shake that hangover.

It is encouraging to find someone who can look at the agony of what has been and not want to make Hidden Agenda 2: The Aftermath. This is essentially a comedy. Starkey tries to be heroic, but without cynicism he's lost. The bad guys have been watching too many Mafia movies and Gant seems incapable of an expression that isn't carved in teak.

Rachel Griffiths, Toni Collete's best mate in Muriel's Wedding, pops up as a nurse who dresses as a nun at night. Why she's there is anyone's guess. Robert Lindsay, as the prospective PM, is surprisingly affective in a cardboard role, while Isaacs is cardboard in what should have been an affective role. Thewlis plays his Naked self, without the angst or the arrogance. Starkey is a poor excuse for a human being. Thewlis gives him heart and soul.

The film starts well and slowly loses credibility. The American and the nurse are superfluous to requirements. David Caffrey cannot judge the gap between black humour and white farce. Murder isn't a joke unless the style is established from the start. Jack wants it both ways, thriller tough and funny ha-ha. Although consistently entertaining, it ends up an innocent death short of a good laugh.

Reviewed on: 19 Jan 2001
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Comedy thriller, a newspaper columnist finds himself on the run from the local Northern Ireland hardman.
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Director: David Caffrey

Writer: Colin Bateman

Starring: David Thewlis, Rachel Griffiths, Jason Isaacs, Laura Fraser, Richard Gant, Laine Megaw, Bronagh Gallagher, Kitty Aldridge, Robert Lindsay, Adam Black, Simon Magill

Year: 1998

Runtime: 110 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: UK/France


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