Red Hill

Red Hill


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

There's a dusty landscape, a one-horse town (more on the horse later) and a new arrival called Shane, but though Patrick Hughes' debut wears the trappings of a western, the setting isn't 19th century America but modern-day rural Australia. The incomer is young cop Shane Cooper (True Blood's Ryan Kwanten) - and he's about to have a very bad day.

Fresh from the city, he's moved to Red Hill with his heavily pregnant wife (Claire van der Boom) to help keep down her blood pressure, although his is already climbing, not least because he can't find his gun for his first day at work. That's just the beginning of his woes. When he gets to the station he finds the local cops are, at best, indifferent and, at worst, downright hostile to his presence. In particular, his new boss Old Bill (no pun intended, I don't think) is sure his latest employee has other reasons for wanting to move to the backwaters.

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But there's no time for building bridges, since within moments of his arrival there are reports of a prison break out. The man who has escaped is no ordinary convict, however. He was banged up for the murder of his wife and attempting to kill a cop. The man who put him away was Old Bill (TV veteran Steve Bisley) and he and the rest of his team seem convinced he'll come looking for payback.

The con is expert tracker Jimmy Conway (Tommy Lewis) and he's not a happy man. Actually, through the course of the film you come to wonder if he is a man at all, so super-human does his ability to avoid getting hurt seem to be. And this is one of the problems with Red Hill. On the one hand, it is played utterly straight - with even some early humorous shenanigans with the police horse kept pretty lowkey - but on the other, outlandish things and over-the-top acts of violence keep happening.

For the first half an hour, the tension bubbles along nicely thanks to the slick camerawork and the action unfolds in a relaxed, reassuringly old-fashioned way as Hughes sets the stage for a cat-and-mouse game between Shane and Jimmy. But the further into the runtime we ride, the more the cliches stack up. Instead of letting the action fly and embracing some of the more outrageous aspects of the plot - panther, anyone? - the fact that Hughes' tone remains resolutely serious, if not portentous, means that it all starts to feel distinctly silly. Enjoyable enough if you're prepared to go with the flow and there's no denying Hughes has plenty of directorial skill but it's disappointing that Red Hill fails to deliver on the promise of the early scenes.

Reviewed on: 21 Jun 2010
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Life proves tough for a young police officer in a small town, as he begins to wonder if he'll make it through his first day alive.
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Director: Patrick Hughes

Writer: Patrick Hughes

Starring: Ryan Kwanten, Steve Bisley, Tommy Lewis, Claire van der Boom, Christopher Davis, Kevin Harrington

Year: 2010

Runtime: 95 minutes

Country: Australia

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