Review from filmmaker Jordan Dupper. Enjoy. -JO
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With the small number of films coming out of Australia, I’d be happy with just one or two good films each year. But this year has set the bar high, and Red Hill is yet another example of the talent down under in the filmmaking industry.
Red Hill is a modern day western, set in high country Australia. Young police officer Shane Cooper (Ryan Kwanten) has just relocated with his pregnant wife to the small country town of Red Hill. Shane’s first day on the job turns into a nightmare when the town gets news that Jimmy Conway (Tom E. Lewis), a convicted murderer, has escaped maximum security prison. Led by Old Bill (Steve Bisley), the police captain, they prepare for all-out war that the revenge-seeking Jimmy Conway is bringing their way. Shane has to fight to survive while he slowly uncovers the mysteries of Red Hill.
The movie was written, directed and edited by Patrick Hughes. You can see he is heavily influenced by No Country For Old Men: his ability to create tension is excellent. Instead of someone coming into a room and shooting it up, he builds up the tension and makes every gunshot count. The villain, Jimmy Conway, feels very similar to Javier Bardem’s character in No Country. There is one scene where he takes time to play a song on the jukebox, while his victim hides in the corner, watching and waiting for his death to come. You almost expect him to flip a coin.
The movie starts out a little rough, a little too ‘on the nose.’ The characters seem generic at first. But as the movie progresses, these ‘generic characters’ evolve into real people. Ryan Kwanten’s and Steve Bisley’s performances are excellent and really carry the movie when needed.
The movie was shot in Victoria, and the beautiful landscapes and the small rural town really give the sense that this still is the wild country, where things haven’t changed much from the 1800’s and where you would expect things to be solved in an ol’ fashioned shootout.
Director Patrick Hughes said while he was writing the script he was trying to write something that would be easy to make on a tight budget. Instead, he ended up with a script loaded with stunts, shootouts, pyrotechnics, horse chases, car crashes and prosthetic limbs getting blown off. The film was all privately financed with neither a distributor nor any government grant. In the end Screen Australia and Arclight came on to help complete the film. The film was shot in four weeks on second-hand film stock from Hollywood, using short ends from productions such as Entourage and Fast and the Furious.
The score, done by Dmitri Golovko, does an excellent job of of going back and forth between the happy country music of a small town and the high tension of a horror film.
This movie isn’t without flaws. One important flashback scene happens twice, when showing it only once would have made the ending even more memorable. Some people might also find it odd that no matter how far Shane ends up away from the town he is able to make it back extremely fast. The biggest downfall I can see for this movie is that it will be compared to another Australian film that came out this year, Animal Kingdom, which was one of the best movies of the year thus far. Red Hill is not on the same level, but is still an excellent film. It is a ripping modern day western that will keep you entertained.
Jordan Dupper is a movie-lover who works in post-production in Los Angeles. Read more of his movie reviews at thinksplosion.blogspot.com.