'It's a three on the coma scale,'' says a paramedic wheeling out an elderly victim of an attack. ''And that's out of three, not 10.'' The Broken Shore (ABC1, Sunday, 8.30pm) is full of such lines, in which the end twists the beginning, and the humour leaves twinges of pain. If you have already had your fill of reality television, this terrific, involved mystery is the antidote.
Investigating the crime, under duress at first, is Detective Joe Cashin (Don Hany), a former Melbourne homicide detective who has the limp, the spooky memories, the bottle of pills and the laconic manner that suggest his last job in the big smoke ended badly. These are the standard elements of a police procedural, but it is what this telemovie does with them that impresses.
In the small coastal town of Port Munro, Joe knows everyone. ''How's your nanna?'' he says to one teenager he picks up, and at first you think this knowledge is his strength, but it is as much a weakness. Joe knows enough to know that he does not know what he needs: every time he looks out to sea he sees the floating body of his late father.The coastline is sparse, muscular and brooding, as is Hany, who is one of those annoying genetic bingo winners who is ridiculously good looking and talented to boot. Thankfully Claudia Karvan is present, as neighbour and former infatuation Helen, to draw out the recalcitrant Joe.Advertisement
Indeed, the cast is ludicrously impressive - tip of the hat to Robyn Nevin, Tony Briggs, Anthony Hayes and more - and they make the most of Andrew Knight's adaptation of Peter Temple's 2005 crime novel. Knight also oversaw the Jack Irish TV movies, but this unfolding conspiracy, which takes 0in race relations, institutional corruption and the stains of the past, runs darker and deeper.
The director is Rowan Woods, who made one of the great Australian films, The Boys, and he leaves his mark on the material, which has a tragic timeliness to it. Most everyone and their environs in The Broken Shore is haunted. It's a nine, and that is out of 10.