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Netflix Review: Red Hill
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Red HillRed Hill
Netflix Streaming
DVD | Blu-Ray
Written and Directed by Patrick Hughes
Starring Ryan Kwanten, Steve Bisley, Tom E. Lewis, Claire van der Boom, Christopher Davis
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Originally Released: December 02, 2011

Red Hill is easily one of the best movies I’ve ever seen on Netflix, and is an unexpected and understated title that grabs and keeps your attention from beginning to end. It is a solidly written and marvelously executed movie that is an exceptional viewing experience. This is a most definite “must see” movie, so when you add it to your Netflix queue, push it to the number one spot. You won’t regret it.

Being Australian, I have a tendency to keep an eye out for new Aussie flicks that pop up on Netflix Streaming. Director Patrick Hughes delivers a killer effort with Red Hill, and is perhaps one of the more concentrated offerings from the Australian film industry in recent years.

Set in a small remote outback town called Red Hill, the movie is at its core a revenge drama – but on its surface is a “Western” movie set in the Australian Outback”¦ a wonderful clash of settings if I’ve ever seen one. Yes, Red Hill is a Western through and through, applying some of the more familiar and timeless motifs we’ve seen in the masterpieces – but told with the raw underpinnings of remote Aussie culture.

But don’t expect kangaroos and crocodiles. This movie is all bullets, blood, and revenge; with a HUGE touch of humanity and drama.

Essentially we follow the main character, played by Ryan Kwanten, named Shane Cooper who is on his first day on the job as a police officer in Red Hill. He’s just moved to the remote town with his wife (funnily named Alice – check the surname) from the city, transferring to a new background for his career. The small Aussie town is represented at its finest here (though some elements are deliberately changed and designed to evoke those American Western motifs), as he turns up at the police station”¦ only to find a horse waiting out the front.

During these moments, a prison breakout has been stifled in Melbourne, though one convict remains on the loose. Jimmy Conway has escaped, and he heads directly to Red Hill to enact his revenge on the police officers responsible for arresting him.

Added to the Aussie flavor, the revenge drama, and the Western motif, is a wonderful thriller subplot (upon which the revenge is based), where clues and hints are given throughout the movie (some of them extra subtle) as to the motivations of all of the characters, and how everything ties together.

Ryan Kwanten puts in a nice performance as the new Constable in town, and we shadow him as our guide into the universe of the story – as he discovers the unfolding tale. We do see some very small and minor character development with Shane Cooper, though these elements (while nice) are not as fundamental to the story as you might think – in fact, it is his relationship with his wife that roots his character to the basis of the story – in many more ways than one.

However, it is Steve Bisley and Tom E. Lewis that absolutely steal and dominate the performances in this film – and justifiably so.

Steve Bisley - Red Hill

American fans will probably remember Steve Bisley as the reckless Jim Goose from the original Mad Max film. Here, many decades later, he takes on the role of Old Bill, the Chief Inspector of the Police Station in town (for all intents and purposes, the “sheriff”). Gruff, blunt, and aggressive, Bisley takes the audience’s attention from the moment he appears on screen – and keeps it that way through to the conclusion.

Lewis plays the escaped convict returning to town with retribution on his mind. The makeup crew should be commended for their work on his face, completing a scarred figure reminiscent of Two-Face from the Batman legends. The glare and stare Tom E. Lewis has is overwhelming and convincing”¦ he IS the expert tracker; he IS the gunslinger – and he makes it clear that he is not to be messed with.

Red Hill

Perhaps the most important aspect of his performance in the movie is that his role is entirely unspoken through the movie – and it is his silence, his body language, his stare, and his mannerisms that make up this incredible performance that should not be missed.

While the performances are brilliant in the film, the camera work and lighting is just as rewarding. There are some once-in-a-lifetime moments caught on film (such as the spark from a horse shoe, as the horse runs down an asphalt road), and the sparse shots of the rural area captivate some pivotal moments. The lighting, specifically during the panther sequence (more on this in a bit), is stunning, and carefully developed to fit the moods of the story.

There is a few moments in the film dedicated to a subplot encompassing a panther set loose in the outback. On the surface, this appears to be confusing and out-of-place; but in actual fact is existentially linked to the central storyline, and a symbolic and spiritual link to the humanity involved. This is made a little clearer in a shot partway through the ending credits, but masterfully left uncertain in a deliberate fashion.

The music by Dmitri Golovko in this movie is nothing short of spectacular, with some unexpected scoring used during some pivotal and action-packed scenes. Like the movie, the music has traces of homages to the Western genre, but has its completely own flavor that helps in sucking you into the events on screen. The music during the gunfight between the hotels should be regarded as an instant classic for film music as far as I am concerned, and downright sold the moment for me.

However, it is director Patrick Hughes’ use of the song “Black Eyed Bruiser” by Stevie Wright (a song later covered by Australian metal gods Rose Tattoo) in the movie that is a particular highlight. The sequence during which this awesome and classic Aussie hard rock tune is used is impressive, and evokes as Tarantino-esque feel, that I’m dead certain would impress even the Quentin man himself. The whole moment is a bad ass experience that helps in summing up the movie, summing up the character of Jimmy Conway, and depicting the attitude and feel of the film. Quite simply: intense and memorable.

If there ever was an Aussie Western, then Red Hill is it. In some ways, it reminds me of something like an Australian version of No Country For Old Men. The movie is absolutely marvelous, and captivating all the way through. There are some predictable elements during the story progression, but the predictability is really irrelevant; because it is the performances that sell the movie, with a sobering finale that will make you want to click on ‘Play’ to watch the whole film yet again.

Believe me – you WILL want to watch this movie…more than once.

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5


1 Comment »

  1. I stumbled across this movie a couple years ago. Since then I’ve watched it again and again, prosthelytizing as I went. I’m not a film nerd, per se, but I am a voracious consumer of film. While I may lack the technical expertise or education to articulate my appreciation of this film, it may be the best I’ve ever seen. That is not hyperbole. The character development, subplots, and the seemingly unstoppable (and yet stoic) wrath of Jimmy Conway drive this one right to the top. For a movie on a budget, it doesn’t show nearly as much as you would think. Not once are we taken out of the moment by a failure of the filmmakers to stretch the budget to encompass their story. The true nature of the conflict is made clear slowly, perfectly timed with the film’s climax. Watch. This.

    Comment by CleverCorvid — March 29, 2014 @ 5:13 am

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