Entertaiment

Stream It or Skip It?

Troppo (Amazon Freevee) is an eight-episode Australian collection based mostly on the novel Crimson Lake by Candice Fox. And “Troppo,” Australian for going loopy with the tropical warmth, is an apt description of life in Far North Queensland, the place an unlikely duo discovers weirdness and homicide amongst the area’s cane fields and crocodiles. Nicole Chamoun (Romper Stomper, Secure Harbour) stars alongside Thomas Jane, with Peta Wilson and Radha Mitchell in assist.

TROPPO: STREAM IT OR SKIP IT?

Opening Shot: In an aerial shot, a wide river lazes up the center of Australia’s vast coastal wilderness. Up close, a seemingly deranged man dives into the crocodile-infested waters, to the horror of some onlookers passing by on a tour boat.

The Gist: Amanda Pharrell (Nicole Chamoun) is still getting up to speed. She’s been out of prison a year, her tattooing kiosk inside a boisterous Crimson Lake bar is largely ignored, and most of her work as a greenhorn private detective is in locating runaway pets. She’s also a bit of a pariah in town. She murdered somebody as a teen, and the local cops won’t let her forget it. So it’s a big get when Amanda is approached by a woman named Yoon Sun (Sun Park). Her husband Jong Min (Sonny Le), a wealthy tech mastermind, has gone missing. “My husband would not just leave,” Yoon Sun says. “He wouldn’t do that to our daughter.” And Amanda’s first case with two legs instead of four is already pretty mysterious.

Looking for some assistance, Amanda enlists Ted Conkaffey (Thomas Jane), who’s a bit of a pariah himself. Once he was a respected detective with a wife and daughter in Sydney; now he’s a disgraced drunk with neither in Crimson Lake. Haunted by a crime he was accused of but never convicted for, Ted is fiddling with the idea of suicide when a chance encounter involving a Toulouse goose puts him on Amanda’s radar. He grunts and groans and tries to play it tough, but joining up with the fledgling PI means money in his pocket and maybe a stab at reclaiming some self-respect.

The newly-minted partners interview Yoon Sun at her ultra-modern heap in the posh part of town. Amanda thinks Jong Min is having an affair, and they drive out to investigate an address she found scrawled in the Park home. It’s a cavernous shed in the middle of a cane field, with another shed inside full of refrigerators. Weird, and certainly a tantalizing clue, but before they can look any further they’re chased away by a guy on a dirtbike. Somebody is definitely hiding something.

Amanda and Ted’s partnership is a prickly one, but they sense a kinship, even if it will take time to manifest. As she says, “there’s a stink that won’t wash off,” and they both have it. If they can avoid the bad vibes from Crimson Lake’s townies, getting hassled by the cop shop, and stay cool in the oppressive Queensland heat, maybe these two can figure out why Jong Min disappeared, and why that other guy fed himself to the crocodiles.

TROPPO FREEVEE AMAZON PRIME SERIES
Photo: Prime Video

What Shows Will It Remind You Of? Lucy Lawless has received high marks for her work in My Life is Murder, the Australia/New Zealand mystery/comedy that streams in the US on Acorn TV. Jack Irish, with Guy Pearce as an ex-lawyer turned PI, is another Australian Broadcasting Corporation production adapted from a book, this time from the crime fiction of Peter Temple. It has also streamed on Acorn TV in the US.

Our Take: Unlike Ted, who swears by his innocence, Amanda doesn’t mince words about what she did. “Murder,” she tells her new partner. “Stone cold.” It speaks to the kind of person she is. She’s proud of her shaven head and self-administered tattoos, and she doesn’t take any crap from anyone. (“I don’t do cars,” she tells Ted, turning down his rangy Peugeot in favor of her trusty mountain bike. “I don’t do touching, either.”) But even early on in Troppo, you get the sense there’s more to that murder than just cold blood. And it’s likely the same for Ted, who longs for a means of clearing his name and righting his capsized marriage. Watching these two proud but very damaged people sort out their respective baggage as they stand together against all the local adversity in this dusty Queensland town is the allure at the center of Troppo, and the chemistry between Nicole Shamoun and Thomas Jane is apparent from the instant they’re together.

What’s less apparent in the early going is how Jong Min’s disappearance links up with a guy in his underpants trotting through the undergrowth and tossing himself into the jaws of a circling crocodile. But it’s an intriguing setup with plenty of localized flair, and should give Amanda and Ted a lot to chew on over the course of Troppo’s relatively brief eight-episode run.

Sex and Skin: None.

Parting Shot: “O Children” from Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds plays as Amanda sets her jaw and packs her stuff – she just got tossed from where she’d been crashing since getting out of prison. And Ted stands on his dock, staring into the inky black, where the throaty growl of a croc is heard.

Sleeper Star: We’ll go with the scenery here. Standing in for Troppo’s Far North Queensland setting is the northeastern Australian state’s Gold Coast Hinterland, where lonely tracks are cut from the cane fields stretching to the horizon, and a symphony of screeches, quacks, and hisses accompanies every outdoor shot. In Troppo, you can feel the heat coming off the land.

Most Pilot-y Line: “Everyone here moves so slowly,” Yun Sun says to Amanda. As a wealthy transplant from South Korea, she’s at odds with the pace and tenor of life in Crimson Lake. “I thought it was the heat, but it’s more than that.”

Our Call: STREAM IT. At the center of Troppo is the electric banter between Nicole Chamoun and Thomas Jane as flawed individuals trying to do right with some good old fashioned gumshoeing in a unique corner of the world.

Johnny Loftus is an independent writer and editor living at large in Chicagoland. His work has appeared in The Village Voice, All Music Guide, Pitchfork Media, and Nicki Swift. Follow him on Twitter: @glennganges



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