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July 2011

Red Hill

cast: Ryan Kwanten, Steve Bisley, Tom E. Lewis, Claire van der Boom, and Kevin Harrington

director: Patrick Hughes

95 minutes (15) 2010
widescreen ratio 2.35:1
Momentum DVD Region 2

RATING: 7/10
review by James A. Stewart

Red Hill

There is something reassuring about watching an Australian film with characters called Shane and Alice, and it featuring convicts. There are some potential stereotypes that could be inferred just from reading the synopsis that you'd be forgiven for thinking that Bruce and Sheila are the couple next door. But it's okay, there's no braying dingoes or creepy aborigines wandering about and talking puzzles - or is there? Oh, and for good measure Alice's surname is Cooper.

Shane Cooper, played by the excellent Ryan Kwerten, has moved to a small outback town which lends its name to film's title, Red Hill. He has taken up a role in local law enforcement, aiming to have a quieter life with his pregnant spouse, the aforementioned Alice (Claire van der Boom). However, his dreams are torn asunder when an escaped convict comes to wreak revenge for perceived wrongdoings done unto him (the convict). The creepy con Jimmy, played by Tom E. Lewis, looks and acts dangerous, and all of this is achieved without a word from him. He just wants retribution, and goes about it in a bloody, single-minded way.

There are secrets in the town of Red Hill some people would rather never surface, and the film plays out very much in the style of a western but with an Aussie twist. The plot, without wanting to spoil it too much, is recognisable in its formula: a wronged man wants revenge after escaping prison; a young couple with designs on happiness get caught in the crossfire and meanwhile there are bodies buried that are better left underground in some people's eyes.

What makes Red Hill work is that it is a tightly directed, well-scripted and aesthetically pleasing film. There is a deluge of violence and the pig's blood must have been on repeat order, but it felt necessary. There is a cause behind the carnage, and whilst never justified it can be understood in the end.

Whilst Shane and Jimmy do well during their screen time, the real star of the show is Steve Bisley as Red Hill's answer to Judge Dredd - at least so he thinks. Bisley puts in an accomplished shift as Bill and is the most complicated character in the film. Whilst Shane is straightforward, even delivering a couple of oblique one-liners despite the bloodshed, Bill seems to say more than his prayers and you never know where you stand with him.

Red Hill is a chilling film with some trepidation built-in, and all set against a quite eerie score that works on so many levels. Surprisingly suspenseful and well acted. Director Patrick Hughes has clearly done a good job of pulling together a decent cast, story and crew to create a film that will enhance the Aussie film industry's standing still further. The only letdown is the easily guessed at ending, but as a package, this is well worth seeing.



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