96. Red Hill (2010)

An Australian finally rides into the Western with style

7.5/10
Directed by: Patrick Hughes
Written by: Patrick Hughes
Starring: Ryan Kwanten, Steve Bisley and Tommy Lewis

Australian cinema needs more ambitious directors like Patrick Hughes. While we’ve come to brand Australian films as low-budget, quirky and hard to relate to, Red Hill uses the scenic landscapes of Victoria and Australia’s unique historical narratives and culture to ride a thrilling and exciting drama into the typically American Western genre.

It’s Shane Cooper’s (True Blood‘s Kwanten) first day on the job as a horse riding cop in a small and, what looks like, a relatively uneventful town. Having moved from the city life with his pregnant wife, in search of peace and less stress, Shane ironically gets the exact opposite as a highly dangerous killer breaks out of prison with unmoving determination to get revenge on the cops who locked him away.

Moving to the country was a bad move.

The twist that we see at the end of the film is too obvious. From early on, Red Hill offers us too many clues that don’t try to lead us astray or make us question what’s going on. In fact, the film doesn’t give us a single chance to come up with our own hypotheses of what will happen, making the film lose a lot of its potential impact on the audience as a surprising and shocking turn of events.

Nevertheless, Hughes doesn’t fail to astound and impress in his visual direction. While we’ve seen the Australian countryside billions of times, had iconic Australian imagery thudded over our heads like a boomerang, and seen the story of indigenous Australians approached with caution and sensitivity in previous Australian films, Red Hill uses all the above, but with a fresh sense of originality and almost painterly qualities in their visual representation.

As Kwanten delivers a naturally likeable performance as Shane, and the action is filmed with a keen eye for the visually thrilling, it’s a shame that Red Hill didn’t tighten its script as one that would leave us guessing. As an Australian film that dares to go into Western genre territory without completely taking the piss, or coming off as jarringly Australianised, Red Hill proves that there is great potential behind Australia’s small, but incredibly talented, film industry.

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