Directed by Patrick Hughes
Red Hill is a slightly oddball yet very sincere modern-day Australian cowboy movie. Its setup is simple: city cop moves to backwards middle-of-nowhere town with his pregnant wife to try to give her a more stable environment during her term. On his first day on the job, the town’s history is stirred up as a convict escapes from a nearby prison and the local police are thrown into a panic. Our lead Shane Cooper is left in the dark as to why and a fun, sad and carefully woven cowboy yarn unravels.
Red Hill was one of the better films shown at this year’s Frightfest. Its characters are colourful, and the lead (Ryan Kwanten of True Blood) is incredibly likable in his innocent determination. Their are echoes of Assault on Precinct 13, High Noon, and even No Country for Old Men here, and director Patrick Hughes keeps the pacing fairly brisk and the dry humour, at least in the early scenes, bubbling at the surface.
The cinematography is also incredibly strong, boasting a bouquet of ochres, steely blues, and pale, grassy greens. It’s a beautiful film to look at and has plenty of assuredly directed mini set-pieces that are always clearly shot and edited and never confuse, which lends the tale some maturity in its presentation. There’s also some fairly meaningful subtext throughout about the juxtaposition of aborigines and modern Australia, but to delve into it properly would spoil some of the better reveals.
In the end, Red Hill is hardly the sort of film you can talk about for hours on end and for many it may prove to be a little too slow in places, but it’s a well made. pulpy genre piece that entertains as well as provoking some genuine emotion thanks to its earnest final showdown, helped to no end by a startlingly brilliant score from Dmitri Golovko. Recommended.