Friday, 30 August 2013

Divorcing Jack (1998)

A favourite of mine from the late 90s when I used to devour the excellent pulp fiction of Northern Irish novelist Colin Bateman, the source of this underrated movie. A film I vividly recall watching for the first time late one Saturday night on BBC2.

Divorcing Jack is a great unadulterated punchy affair. Adapted by Bateman himself it is faithful to the novel, which means the style on screen is the same no holds barred, NI wit and sardonic, jet black comic take on life that appeared on the page too. The kind of take on life one can only have when living in a province that for decades had gunfights and bombs going off as a matter of routine. As such moments are shocking, unexpected, matter of fact and sickly humourous - a rare treat for film.

David Thewlis impresses as Bateman's hero, the cyncial lippy journo and old punk Dan Starkey. His accent is convincing but you do find yourself listening perhaps too hard at times, waiting for a slip. Indeed all the main parts are filled by non NI actors which means you  also have, at the other end of the scale, Robert Lindsay as NI's answer to Tony Blair with an accent that is utterly atrocious. The other accent adoptees are Jason Isaacs suitably creepily menacing as IRA gangster Cow-Pat Keegan, and  the lovely quirky Rachel Griffiths as the rather iconic nurse by day/strip-o-gram nun by night and gun for hire when the chips are down. There's even a brief appearance from the young Laura Fraser, beautiful as ever.

It's a shame this was the only Bateman and/or Starkey novel that was adapted for film as there was definitely mileage in more.

British TV watchers can listen out for Starkey tuning in to Belfast Citybeat, a local radio station whose news presenter can be heard - the then unknown (to us) Christine Bleakley.

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