Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Watched - No 15 - Red Hill (Patrick Hughes,2010)

http://youtu.be/M9MouXxXREA - trailer
Red Hill, directed, written, edited and produced by Patrick Hughes in his feature length debut, is the latest of many recent genre pieces to emerge from Australia. After the success of Greg McLean's Wolf Creek (2005) a wave of films reminiscent of the 70s 'Ozploitation' features have come along, including Storm Warning (Jamie Blanks,2007), Rogue (Greg McLean,2007) and The Loved Ones (Sean Byrne,2009). Hughes' movie, which grafts many of the traits of the Western genre (a local 'sheriff', outlaws, endangered townsfolk and horseriding posses) onto a modern day setting in much the same way as Tommy Lee Jones' exceptional The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada (2005), may not break any new ground, and at times suffers from one too many cliches, but what it does do it does in a lean and entertaining fashion.

Hughes has assembled a cultish cast, featuring True Blood's Ryan Kwanten, Steve Bisley, best remembered to international audiences as Jim Goose in Mad Max (George Miller,1979), Tommy Lewis, so memorable as the lead in The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith (Fred Schepisi,1978) and Kevin Harrington of Neighbours fame, for this stripped back revenge thriller. The economic plot sees Kwanten's Shane Cooper, a young police officer relocated from the city to the small town of Red Hill in Australia's high country starting his first day on the job, one that coincides with the escape from prison of convicted murderer and former resident of Red Hill Jimmy Conway (Tommy Lewis), who makes a beeline straight for the town, seemingly hellbent on murdering whoever crosses his path. With his fellow officers and townsfolk, including Bisley's no nonsense, domineering Police Chief 'Old Bill', alerted to the situation the town effectively goes into lockdown and prepares itself for Conway's arrival. What follows is a fairly predictable tale, secrets revealed, shoot-outs and the embattled Cooper caught up in events, but it's done with a fair amount of panache and romps along at a considerable pace. Hughes inserts an off kilter sub-plot into proceedings, involving an escaped Panther, and gives the facially disfigured Conway a near supernatural ability to dodge bullets. The Western genre milieu and plot points recall Ted Post's Hang 'em High (1968) and whilst the climax is no great surprise there's a lot of fun getting there.

Red Hill is an ideal Friday night B-movie with its enthusiastic performances, great use of location, head on narrative and gruesome action sequences. Hughes proves himself to be an adept director and should carve out an interesting niche as a genre film-maker.

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