Shane Cooper (Ryan Kwanten) is a young police officer who
relocates with his pregnant wife Alice (Claire Van Der Broom) to Red
Hill, a small Victorian one-horse town in outback Australia. Cooper is
dreaming of a future life in his new tranquil surroundings. However, the
couple's dreams are shattered when news of a prison break sends the town
into a tail spin. The escapee, Jimmy Conway (Lewis) is an Aborigine
serving a life sentence for murder and is heading straight into town. In
the ensuing battle, the local police officers are gunned down one by
one. Cooper begins to suspect that Red Hill is hiding a terrible secret,
especially when police chief 'Old' Bill (Steve Bisley) refuses to call
any reinforcements. Cooper has to fight for his life, and ultimately, to
save his family. The scene is set for an explosive final showdown.
is independent filmmaker Patrick Hughes' first feature film, which he
also wrote, edited and co-produced with Al Clark. Hughes makes no secret
of the fact he always loved westerns, and admits that in making the
film, he was influenced by such films as High Plains Drifter, and
No Country for Old Men. He set out to create a contemporary
western that would evoke themes of revenge, redemption, and sacrifice.
The result is Red Hill; a modern western/action thriller set in
the old gold mining town of Omeo in the beautiful Gippsland highlands,
with the whole action taking place in a single day. The film also has
strong elements of horror; from a distance, Conway's horribly disfigured
face is reminiscent of Michael Myers from Halloween, or even
Leatherface from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
The big draw of the film is of course, Ryan Kwanten,
fresh from his recent
success as Jason Stackhouse in the smash hit TV series True Blood.
However, what's more intereseting is the casting of legendary
Aboriginal actor Tom E. (Tommy) Lewis, the star of Fred Schepisi's
The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith (1978) – a role that has many
similarities with that of Jimmy Conway in Red Hill. Lewis also
featured in Igor Auzin's
of the Never Never,
and more recently, September, Crocodile Dreaming,
The Curse, Bad Habits, and The Proposition. His
portrayal of the terminator-like Conway is simply brilliant.
Steve Bisley is superb as the cold-hearted, tough-talking
police chief; one again, he demonstrates how effortlessly versatile an
actor he could be. For a brief moment (very brief that is!), Cooper
mistakenly believes that his greatest challenge in Red Hill would be
dealing with his new boss. Van Der Broom appears only briefly as the
pregnant Alice, her conversation with the injured Cooper when he returns
home to retrieve his gun providing the film's only comic relief.
Tim Hudson's cinematography is absolutely stunning; his
camera work brilliantly captures the mistiness and the beauty of the
Victorian high country. The end result is a remarkably atmospheric film,
but it’s not without its flaws. A subplot that introduces a semi-mythic
panther, for instance, is hard to follow – one feels that Hughes was
just trying a little too hard. And Cooper sometimes seems a little too
fair from the action as Conway wreaks his destructive path.
Considering Red Hill is Hughes' first feature, the
once director of TV commercials has done extremely well, and should be
very proud of his efforts. With a perfect cast, and brilliant
cinematography, Red Hill may be just what the doctor has ordered
for the Australian film industry, which has had its far share of
struggles in recent years. Highly recommended.