Jack Taylor: The Guards starring Iain Glen C5 PREVIEW

Jack Taylor looks for a missing daughter in Galway. Pics: Channel 5

Rating: ★★★★

Channel 5: starts Thursday, 21 February, 9pm

Story: Beautiful Anne Henderson comes into Jack´s local pub and asks him to find her missing daughter. Before long, former cop Jack is submerged in the grimy secret lives of Galway´s outwardly respectable middle class citizens. 

News that Irish author Ken Bruen’s terrific series of books about former Galway cop Jack Taylor were getting the telly treatment may have tempted a few to reach for a beer and chaser. Or several.

Would the drama capture the character’s battered personality, or would he be stripped of everything that makes him compelling – booze, bad attitude and beatings.

Well, Channel 5 is stepping outside of its comfort zone of interminable US buy-ins – The Mentalist, Castle, NCIS, etc – for this series of three Irish acquisitions. And, while not perfect, they take a decent stab at capturing the books’ specialness.

Jack (Iain Glen) and Anne (Tara Breathnach)

Jack Taylor – aka Iain Glen
The opener is based on the first novel, The Guards, introducing us to the bloodyminded, dishevelled, boozy, unshaven Taylor, recently turfed out of the Irish police because ‘I’m risk-taking and don’t kiss arse’.

He gets by as a ‘finder’, and is approached by the Anne Henderson at his local, who asks him to find her daughter.

Iain Glen certainly looks the part of the rundown cop, and while the Scottish actor’s Irish accent is elusive, his trademark low, smooth voice – familiar in everything from Game of Thrones, Prisoners Wives to Downton Abbey – works for the character. And he is versatile and charismatic enough as a performer to win us over as the man battling demons within and without.

With friends like these… Sutton

Taylor’s dangerous ‘friend’ Sutton
Anyway, the bodies of three young women are washed up in the river. The word is suicide, but Jack suspects something more sinister, and Anne Henderson fears her daughter may soon be among them.

Jack teams up with an old paratrooper mate, though, like many boozers, he does not always show good judgement of character. Sutton turns out to be a nasty piece of work who jeopardises Jack’s inquiries with his brutality.

The investigation leads to a factory that illegally employs plenty of young women. It turns into a very dirty business indeed, featuring well-connected people with criminal secrets.

Vivid and tragic anti-hero
TV likes to focus on the plots of crime novels, often discarding interesting characters for the mechanics of whodunit. Ken Bruen’s novels are plot-lite, with digressions and observations from Taylor that make them so vivid and tragic.

This trio of TV movies are each two hours long, however, and spend time to breathe life into our anti-hero. Taylor’s narration captures much of his caustic view of contemporary Ireland. Elsewhere, the drama passes on some of the books’ poetry, such as when he tells Anne of a Guard collegue he once loved – ‘She made me feel I was more than I was.’

Jack has a network of un-influential street contacts

Also included are Taylor’s awful mother – ‘You’ll come to nothing, like your father’ – his ‘father-confessor’ and favourite barman, Sean, his nemesis in the force, Clancy, and his bond with the street dwellers of Galway.

Watching these films, any fans of Ken Bruen’s award-winning books who do reach for the bottle will probably do so with a smile rather than a need to find a level of oblivion worthy of Jack Taylor himself.  This is a good series, which makes you want to go back to the novels.

Cast: Iain Glen Jack Taylor, Ralph Brown Sutton, Tara Breathnach Anne Henderson, Barry Cassin Sean, Paraic Breathnach Father Malachy, David Heap Lanpert

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