Divorcing Jack

(David Caffrey, UK/France, 1998)


Filmgoers regularly accuse the American industry of turning out copycat product, of eagerly and greedily minting whatever the latest success has been.

In huge markets – like the USA, India or China – such wholesale imitation has in fact long acquired an astonishing degree of suppleness: no two knock-offs are ever exactly alike. In the UK, however, where the production slate is far smaller, such imitation invariably exudes a desperate, unimaginative air.

Thus it comes about that Australia is condemned to miserable cycles of second-rate films from that part of the globe which recycle actors, plots, situations and details from either Trainspotting (1996), The Full Monty (1997) or Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998).

Divorcing Jack is a loud, frantic, grungy number in the Trainspotting and Lock, Stock modes. David Thewlis – forever the foul-mouthed degenerate since appearing in Mike Leigh’s Naked (1993) – plays Dan, a drunken, uncouth reporter who finds himself stranded inside a Coen brothers-style nightmare.

There are dead bodies, political bully-boys, sexy flings and even a highly animated Nun with a gun (Rachel Griffiths). Twists abound and appearances are deceptive – but nothing saves this bombastic merry-go-round from fast becoming drearily zany.

By the time director David Caffrey and writer Colin Bateman reach Dan’s impromptu and unlikely sermon on the troubles in Northern Ireland, every single thing in the movie seems misplaced and wonky.

© Adrian Martin April 1999

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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