Review by Jack Foley
PATRICK Hughes violent contemporary Australian Western Red Hill is a neat little thriller that nods to a couple of Clint Eastwood classics as well as Ozploitation cinema.
True Blood’s Ryan Kwanten stars as big city cop Shane Cooper, who takes an Outback posting in Red Hill in the hope of making his wife’s pregnancy easier, only to find himself at the centre of a manhunt.
For within hours of arriving, news filters through that scarred Aborigine Jimmy Conway (Tommy Lewis) has escaped from prison bearing a grudge, prompting the no-nonsense town sheriff to mobilise his troops for a shoot-to-kill mission to prevent a bloodbath.
But as Conway’s motives become clear, Shane is forced to make some tough decisions and uncover some dark secrets from the town’s past.
Hughes’ film (which he also scripted) carries more than a passing nod to Eastwood’s High Plains Drifter as well as his Coogan’s Bluff without necessarily matching the quality of either.
But it’s a strangely gripping affair that takes an unfussy approach to storytelling (dialogue is sparse) and a ruthless approach to its violence, thereby tip-toeing into aforementioned Ozploitation territory.
As a result, there are some lapses in logic (especially involving Conway’s almost supernatural ability to move around undetected) and the characterisation feels lightweight.
But Kwanten is good value as the everyman hero struggling to put things together and Lewis brings silent, steely menace to Conway.
A brief but tense appearance from a cougar also delivers another moment to savour, as do a couple of the more imaginative deaths (including one involving a boomerang).
It means that Red Hill, for all its many flaws, also bears all the hallmarks of a cult favourite in the making.
Running time: 95mins
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release Date: May 30, 2011