Northern Irish drunken journalist Dan Starkey, makes his biggest mistake when he beds the girlfriend of a local killer. His wife kicks him out and he's forced on the run, adopting bizarre costumes and enlisting the help of a stripping nun. Meanwhile he has to write it all up if he is to save his job at a newspaper.
Strange to think, but this was Thewlis' first lead role since his mesmerising, award-winning turn in Mike Leigh's Naked back in 1994. Between these two hes been in big-budget Hollywood fare that are clearly beneath him (Dragonheart, The Island Of Dr. Moreau) or else cringing supporting roles in low-budget oddities (Total Eclipse, The Big Lebowski). But here he's back to what he does best: a hard-drinking, hard-talking antihero with a mouth like a sewer. Adapted by Colin Bateman from his own cult novella.
Divorcing Jack depicts a fictitious Northern Ireland, now an independent state, on the brink of peace thanks to Blair-esque prime ministerial candidate Michael Brinn (Lindsay). The only person who seems to be causing any trouble is Dan Starkey (Thewlis), a drunken hack who, just one hour into the movie, is left with a broken marriage, a dead body, a stripper nun (Griffiths) on his case, an IRA squad on his back, a code ("divorce...Jack") to crack and his mug shot plastered on every newspaper in town. Starkey's solution is simple: find the wife, fix his marriage, bring in the bad boys, clear his name and save Ireland.
Make no mistake, the movie has nothing to say about the Troubles; in fact, it may even offend some with its offhand remarks. Then again, the film doesn't try to be serious: it's an out-and-out chase movie, stuffed with visual gags and boasting a fine comedy script which bends the ear with delight. It's a complete rip-off of, or homage to, The Thirty-Nine Steps (antihero on the run, grumpy love interest, marvellous macguffin) but every scene contains the stupendous Thewlis, with his crap goatee, wretched haircut and gangly frame, doing the everyman hero to perfection. If he's not careful, he could soon find himself labelled a national treasure.
What it lacks in political and historical accuracy, it makes up for with great chase scenes and a witty biting script.