blank'/> Cinema Reviews: Red Hill - A sloppy cinematic outing (2011)

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Red Hill - A sloppy cinematic outing (2011)

Dear, oh dear...

Where do I begin? This film, from the producers of Wolf Creek, with at least aspirations to mirror the arid, unsettling atmosphere of The Proposition (Itself a highly flawed picture), falls short of either engaging the viewer in it's revenge story or living up to the Western genre it aspires to be.

The concept is simple and promising; Constable Shane Cooper (True Blood's Ryan Kwanten) moves to the rural town of red Hill, hoping to provide a less stressful environment for his pregnant wife. When a convicted murderer, Jimmy Conway,(Tommy Lewis) escapes from prison, bent on killing every member of the local Police Force, Cooper becomes embroiled in the crossfire between Conway and Sargent Bill (Steve Bisley). Conway was convicted of murdering his wife, but as many cluey viewers will already have guessed by the time Conway emerges, he is an innocent man framed by Bisley's character.

This should have been enough for a compelling revenge movie, with the airless, tension-packed atmosphere of say, No Country for Old men, where we follow two men bent on each other's destruction. Writer-director Patrick Hughes delivers some nice moments, (Conway, like Wolf Creek's Mick Taylor, is an instantly iconic figure; an Aboriginal cowboy whose face is half obscured with deep burn scars. Hughes shoots this stony-faced avenger like a force of nature, with an almost supernatural ability to sense his opponents - witness the scene where he takes out a sniper on a roof, without even having acknowledged his presence with a turn of the head) but none of them are nearly as assured or as well shot as the afore mentioned Coen brother's set pieces.

There are some very clumsy elements in this film (In one scene a character is shot side on through the shoulders? Is Hughes trying show something different with the violence; frankly it's neither darkly amusing nor arresting); the incorporation of a rogue panther stalking Red Hill is laughable and does not serve the plot in any way. Yes, it probably does mirror Jimmy as the rogue element stalking the town but how does it move the story forward? There is a terrible scene where Conway stands coolly in front of an opponent who is apparently so anxious to see him dead that despite firing at him from point-blank range he misses Conway entirely. I did not believe this moment for a second; even an amateur shooter (As indeed the character was) could not have failed to have at least hit him once given the distance suggested by the camera placement. Also, why does Conway possess a psychic ability to sniff out his opponents and hit them with supernatural accuracy in some scenes, yet he can't hit Steve Bisley's character in plain sight in front of a car in another? For me such moments just take you out of the film and cause you to stop investing in the action.

The dialogue is sometimes so laughably B-grade that you pray there's a real moment coming along soon. Such prayers go unanswered as everybody pretty much says whats happening on the surface without ever trying to conceal their intentions and ramp up the tension. In fact the dialogue; which is reasonable at the beginning of the film - take Bisley's unfeeling interrogation of Kwanten's reason's for moving to Red Hill - is superseded by the clumsy action by the second half of the film.

Kwanten is passable, his plain features mirroring a equally plain and uninvolving character.

There was such a missed opportunity with this film. In the hands of a better director, who might have added complexity to the central characters and shaped the action with more style and assurance, this could have been really involving. Instead, it's popcorn fodder for undemanding audiences.

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