By Don Simpson | November 12, 2010
Director: Patrick Hughes
Writer(s): Patrick Hughes
Starring: Ryan Kwanten, Steve Bisley, Tommy Lewis, Claire van der Boom
Shane Cooper (Ryan Kwanten), the young and handsome urban lawman, has recently requested to be transplanted to the quaint environs of Red Hill in high-country Australia in order to lower his wife Alice’s (Claire Van Der Boom) stress level during her pregnancy. Red Hill takes place during Shane’s first day at his new job, which starts off badly and goes downhill from there.
Shane is almost immediately scolded by his new boss, the grizzly and grumpy Old Bill (Jim Goose), for misplacing his firearm (which is most likely buried in one of Shane and Alice’s many unpacked boxes). Hopping right back on the saddle, Shane finds himself hot on the trails of a rumored black panther attack and then an escaped convict — Jimmy Conway (Tom E. Lewis), an expert tracker of Aboriginal descent — who has returned to Red Hill to inflict bloody revenge…all the while; as if the hungry panther and murderous fugitive were not enough, a massive lightening storm is a-brewin’…
Old Bill promptly closes down Red Hill and arms his civilian posse to the gills in preparation for Jimmy’s destined return home (never mind the panther) as Shane watches on (obviously trying to piece together the possible reasons as to why one man would warrant such drastic measures). Jimmy, armed with a sawed-off shotgun and outfitted in an iconic Stetson and leather duster, turns out to be almost supernatural — a seemingly unstoppable boogieman ala Jason Voorhees — calculatedly slaughtering most of Red Hill with the slightest of ease.
It seems as though dark secrets run deep in small Australian towns; it is not until the blood starts gushing that the ugly truths are revealed. Shane functions as the film’s sole moral compass in his desperate search for the truth. While everyone else wants to shoot first and ask questions later, Shane prefers to talk things through. (Firearms are so inconsequential to Shane that he packs his official government-issued handgun in a moving box with the bathroom towels rather than keep it handy.) Shane also appears to be the only character willing to see beyond race in this Australian guilt-trip of a flick about the government’s checkered past with Aborigines.
Patrick Hughes, in his directorial feature-length debut (he also functions as producer, writer and editor), has created an oddball mash-up of the western and horror genres. Channeling Anthony Mann, Sam Peckinpah, Robert Rodriguez and the Coen Brothers, Red Hill is a stunningly stylish and thrilling film to watch despite a few plot holes, a splattering of worn-out cliches and an all too predictable conclusion.