Anyone familiar with Harry and Jack Williams’ thrillers knows that they are adept at weaving complex, suspenseful stories full of twists and turns.
The missing, Baptiste, Rellik AND Liar are among some of their recent successes. In a new 6-part series for Stan, The tourist turns his attention to the Australian outback. There is much that can kill you, whether it be men, beasts or forces of nature.
And when you’re an Irishman with amnesia, you’re doubly susceptible. That’s the problem facing our unnamed hero (Jamie Dornan) who wakes up in an outback hospital bed after a Duel-like a semi-truck chase with a death wish. “The Man” has no recollection of his name, how he got into a car accident or what he was doing in Australia.
Probationary Officer Helen (Danielle Macdonald), on her very first investigation, tries to piece together bits of information, as does her benevolent nature. But her boyfriend Ethan (Greg Larsen) has little patience for her would-be detective work, preferring to focus on her partner’s weight loss and dance lessons.
The only lead The Man finds will lead him to the remote town of Burnt Ridge, where he meets waitress Luci (Shalom Brune Franklin) and the beginning of an elaborate hunt, in which he is very often the hunted.
Hot on her heels is an angry American with a shotgun (Ólafur Darri Ólafsson) as a Major Crimes detective Lochlan (Damon Herriman) follows, with a shivering young cop, Sgt. Lammon (Kamil Ellis).
Most Australians, apart from Herriman’s determined detective, are terse and friendly, including one B&B manager (Genevieve Lemon) who breaks away from watching Survived to aid The Man in his quest for truth and identity.
In fact, most of the Outback characters are strangely funny in a script that goes overboard and demands a lot of believability. Officer Helen isn’t really either…Fargo in a thriller that seems to aspire to the genre: the bad mixed with the very unusual, where a disturbing crime meets a labyrinthine plot.
Hunky Jamie Dornan underplays the Irish hero as he is constantly subjected to challenging, sometimes absurd scenarios, and Danielle Macdonald grins awkwardly as a cop with a lot to prove – it’s great to see her co-star. Damon Herriman is a man on a mission, one of many 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 gas station that looks like it belongs in Arizona, to an American country and western radio DJ, to a craving for ice hockey and a bad guy. with a 10-gallon cap. Even the place names, Burnt Ridge, Coopers Springs, Dusty Moon Motel sound Yankee….these strangely sit alongside references to roaming ‘roos on the street at night. If it’s designed to appeal more to US viewers, it’s a bit confusing.
Despite some bizarre red herrings and fine performances, the sum of the parts doesn’t quite fit together as a unifying whole. It seems that a quirky Coen Bros. factor has been stamped on Australiana at the expense of authenticity (another recent road series, Erectbalances them better).
Harry and Jack Williams do the twists well and speed up the plot at some more unexpected points, but by then you’ve suspended disbelief. When you’re off and looking for summer entertainment, I guess there’s nothing so wrong with that.
The Tourist airs Sunday January 2nd on Stan.