Movie Review: Red Hill
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Red Hill
DIRECTED BY: Patrick Hughes
STARRING: Ryan Kwanten, Steve Bisley, Tom E. Lewis, Claire van der Boom
Strand Releasing
RELEASE DATE: November 5, 2010 (limited)

If anything is terrifying for an authority figure to think about, it’s a very dangerous man that they had a big part in putting away for a long, long time coming back to town for bloody vengeance. This is exactly what happens in Red Hill.

The movie follows Shane Cooper (Ryan Kwanten), a good cop from the city who, after some difficult times and heavy stress lead to his wife (Claire van der Boom) losing their unborn child, transfers to the small town of Red Hill in hopes that their new attempt at starting a family works out a lot better. The day after they arrive at their new home, Shane begins his new job with the town, which is so small that they even still use horses to get around from time to time.

Things start slowly as Shane settles in and tries to get acquainted with his duties and new colleagues, but things do not take long to pick up speed. An urgent report rings out over the television that a very dangerous man, Jimmy Conway (Tom E. Lewis), has escaped from the maximum security prison he was being held at. This sets something off in the town, which goes into lock down and sees the police force preparing for what looks like an oncoming war. Shane soon finds out that the man who has escaped was serving a life sentence for murdering his wife and the attempted murder of a cop. He also discovers that Old Bill (Steve Bisley), the top-ranking officer on the force, is the man who put Jimmy away, and that he’s coming back for his revenge.

Red Hill is one of those movies that not many people know of now, but everyone will hopefully know in the near future. It’s set in a small modern day Australian town, but it plays like the great western movies of old. The movie almost felt like a remake of the 1952 Gary Cooper classic, High Noon, but on a much more dark and brutal level, as if fused with slasher film elements. Being a lover of the western genre, the tone, the setting, the horses…they all felt so right. Add to that vehicles and sniper rifles and a little duct tape, and you have yourself a fully unique and enjoyable cinematic ride.

I was really excited to see Kwanten in a role different from the one he plays on HBO’s True Blood. He’s one of my favorite characters on that show, which was magnified when I discovered that small southern town simpleton was actually from Australia. The actor does a great job in his role as a new guy in a new town thrown into an extreme situation, and it was nice to see him using his natural accent, being someone not familiar with his previous work. Tom E. Lewis does an effective job as well; he speaks minimal dialogue, which means the fear you need to feel from his Jimmy character is strictly based on look, and he certainly had the look. It helped that Jimmy suffered a horrible burn, scarring the left half of his face — props to the makeup department for their work here — but what caught my attention was his eyes. Lewis nails these eyes that had seen lifetimes worth of pain and hurt, and those are the eyes of a man you fear.

This is a movie made for those who love a good thriller, and it serves as a celebration of old western classics. After a short time setting the story up, it offers up a quickfire pacing that will keep you entertained and wondering what will happen next throughout the 95-minute run time. Whether it’s at the theater or possibly even on demand, Red Hill is not to be missed when you see the opportunity to set your eyes on it.


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