The outback is ready to kill Jamie Dornan if the kooky factor doesn't get him first in Stan's new drama.
Anyone familiar with the thrillers of Harry & Jack Williams knows they are masterful at weaving complex, suspenseful tales full of twists and turns.
The Missing, Baptiste, Rellik and Liar are amongst some of their recent achievements. In a new 6 part series for Stan, The Tourist turns its attention to the Australian Outback. There’s plenty that can kill you, be it man, beast or forces of nature.
And when you’re an Irishman with amnesia, you’re doubly susceptible. That’s the problem facing our nameless hero (Jamie Dornan) who wakes up in a hospital bed in the Outback after a Duel-like chase by a semi trailer with a death wish. ‘The Man’ has no recollection of his name, how he ended up in a car crash, or even what he was doing in Australia.
Probationary Constable Helen (Danielle Macdonald), on her very first investigation, tries to piece together the fragments of information, as is her benevolent nature. But her boyfriend Ethan (Greg Larsen) has little patience for her aspiring detective work, preferring to focus on couples weight loss and dancing lessons.
The only clue The Man finds will lead him to the remote town of Burnt Ridge, where he meets waitress Luci (Shalom Brune Franklin) and the beginnings of an elaborate hunt, in which he is very often the hunted.
On his tail is an angry American with shotgun (Ólafur Darri Ólafsson) whilst a Major Crimes detective Lochlan (Damon Herriman) trails behind, with a chilled young cop Sgt. Lammon (Kamil Ellis).
Most of the Aussies -save for Herriman’s determined detective- are laconic and friendly, including a B&B manager (Genevieve Lemon) who tears herself away from watching Survivor to help The Man in his search for truth and identity.
In fact most of the Outback characters are quirkily amusing in a script that over-eggs and asks a lot of credibility. Even Constable Helen is not-quite-Fargo in a thriller that seemingly aspires to the genre: the very bad mixed with the very offbeat, where unsettling crime meets a labyrinthine plot.
Hunky Jamie Dornan underplays the Irish hero while he is constantly put through challenging, sometimes preposterous, scenarios and Danielle Macdonald awkwardly smiles as a cop with plenty to prove -great to see her as a co-lead. Damon Herriman is a man on a mission, one of several familiar faces -Alex Dimitriades, Bruce Spence, Maria Mercedes, Jeanette Cronin, Victoria Haralabidou and even Umbilical Bros. David Collins and Shane Dundas (I can’t figure out why….).
There’s also a curious artistic choice to pepper the series with American touchstones, from a discount fuel station which looks like it belongs in Arizona, to an American Country & Western radio DJ, to a hankering for ice hockey and a baddie in a 10 gallon hat. Even the place names, Burnt Ridge, Coopers Springs, Dusty Moon Motel sound Yankee….these oddly sit alongside references to stray ‘roos on the road at night. If it’s designed to appeal more to US viewers it’s kinda confusing.
Despite some quirky red herrings and nice performances, the sum of the parts doesn’t quite hang together as a unifying whole. It feels like a kooky Coen Bros. factor has been stamped onto Australiana at the cost of authenticity (another recent road series, Upright, balances these better).
Harry & Jack Williams do the twists well and ramp up the plotting to some most unexpected places, but by that stage you have suspended disbelief. When you’ve switched off and seek summer entertainment, I guess there’s nothing so wrong with that.
The Tourist screens Sunday January 2 on Stan.