Reviewbr> Shane Cooper is starting his first day on the small Police force of Red Hill. Already he can't find his gun, the locals are not trusting a “big city boy”, and his boss is something of a hard arse. Shane and his young heavily pregnant wife Alice, is that a wink to the audience? - have move to Red Hill after losing a baby, as Alice needs to keep her blood pressure down, and because Shane was shot in the line of duty.
Ensuing the first day isn't going to be all plan sailing, horsemanship aside, Jimmy Conway has escaped from the local maximum security prison and is heading toward Red Hill to extract some revenge from the townsfolk. Seems Shane's boss Old Bill put Jimmy away after Jimmy murdered his wife and almost killed a Police officer. But is everything as it seems and what secrets might Red Hill be keeping close to it's chest?
There were of course some arguments about whether or not we should cover this movie, Western rather than Horror being the principle item of conjecture, but since Red Hill ran at London's Frightfest and none other then Jason himself, Kane Hodder, proclaimed it to be the best movie of the festival who are we to argue. Besides which I personally love a good Western, and surprisingly Australia tends to turn out the odd excellent example, see The Proposition (2005) for proof positive there.
Red Hill is being attacked from a number of vantage points by people who really need to do some research before making prats of themselves. Yes the movie is hugely influence by previous Westerns. Since Director/Writer Patrick Hughes clearly set out to pay homage to certain other movies than this would tend to be the case don't you think! Similarly to Neil Marshall's Doomsday (2008) Red Hill sets out to explore the tropes and define what was good in a genre. So we know Jimmy Conway is after revenge for a reason, and we also know “babe in the woods” Shane, and that name is a huge reference on it's own, will come good in the end. What separates Red Hill from previous outings is the uniquely Aussie setting and the whole downunder take on the subject matter. Actually I'm hard pressed to think of another movie that has been this effective in taking a standard Western storyline and presenting it in a modern day Aussie setting.
Apparently it's also problematic that every item, organic or not, that is referenced in the first half of the movie will have a role to play in the second. This is called “good movie making” kids, why spend valuable screen time focusing on something and then discard it for the rest of the movie's running time? I've banged on about this previously, leave something you focused on hanging in the wind and Critics are going to be all over your arse, and quite rightly so. Director Hughes has Red Hill tied up tighter than a fish's bum and doesn't waste the Audience's time on throw away or padded scenes that have nothing to do with the plot.
And finally it seems star Ryan Kwanten (Jason Stackhouse True Blood) can do a half decent Aussie accent. I kind of hope he can as Kwanten is a born and bred Aussie, actually I would go so far as to say he does a pretty damn fine job of sounding like a local.
There are a number of other criticisms of Red Hill, but to be honest they sound like they come from the sort of people who went into the movie wanting to hate on it, maybe due to Red Hill being a Downunder Western or a Frightfest entry, and thus have no real baring on an appreciation of the actual movie!
So lets get into what's to like about Red Hill, there's a lot to like, unfort out of room here.
Right from the opening scene, a static pan of the Aussie bush, you know you are in good hands. Director Hughes has a firm hand on the reins and knows exactly what he wants in frame composition. I was wondering with the opening gambit if Greg McLean had a hand in setting things up, as I got a real good Rogue (2007) vibe going down with the horses. Anyway Hughes keeps his firm hand happening throughout Red Hill's running time and dials the pace in to keep things rocking. When the brown stuff hits the Red Hill fan Hughes jumps to warp factor nine and lets it rip in one hell of a roller coaster ride of gun fighting and sheer action adrenaline. Story pretty much takes back stage as Hughes laces his movie with more ammunition expenditure than most War movies would budget for. It's an awesome achievement and you'll find yourself dragging in deep breaths as we come to the final confrontation between Old Bill and Jimmy.
What I liked, from a horror perspective, about Red Hill was the setting up of Jimmy Conway as an almost mythical slasher type villain. We're almost talking Michael Myers indestructibility here. Given the burned face filling in for a mask, and the ability of Jimmy to stand tough in the face of massed gunfire, there's a whole larger than life thing going down. Excellent choice to give Jimmy one line of dialogue toward the end of the movie, added to whole aura of the character. Awesome part of the movie for mine as we don't know the truth behind Jimmy's motivation, okay you can guess of course, till late in Red Hill's running time when even the naive Shane is aware that not everything is as it seems. The icing on top of this particular cup cake is that since Jimmy is Koori, loved the spear and boomerang, he is quintessential Aussie.
There are a couple of minor issues with an overall excellent movies. Shane's unwillingness to pull the trigger regardless of what he is facing is sort of forced and we all know where it's heading. And could someone explain to me what the frack was going down with the panther! Besides some shoddy CGI, not needed, I simply didn't get what the heck I was meant to take from the big cat. When this is published might check a few reviews from the Critical sites to see if it's a metaphor or something. Inquiring minds need to know friends and neighbours.
Seeing as I'm out of space time to wrap. When Red Hill made the cinema circuit it naturally didn't come within a mile of my local church for the mouth breathing masses. The movie is Aussie and hence the bogans will avoid like the plague, Aussie Aussie Aussie Oi Oi Oi! So it's been a wait for the DVD, but have to say I had a lot of fun with a well conceived and well crafted movie that ticked all the right places on my check list of cinematic goodness. Go grab a copy, this one rocks, for once a movie that has substance behind all the hype.
ScaryMinds Rates this movie as ...br> br> Excellent downunder Western with horror overtones