When I was asked to review Red Hill, I had no idea what this movie was. Up until that point, I hadnâ€™t heard a word about it nor had I seen a single trailer/commercial/poster for it. All I was made aware of was that it was an Australian film about a hill that may or may not be red, and the guy who plays Jason Stackhouse (Ryan Kwanten) was in it. I was going to do something I donâ€™t think Iâ€™ve ever really done; I was going to blindly walk into a theater and watch a movie I had no prior knowledge about.
When I was asked to review Red Hill, I had no idea what this movie was. Up until that point, I hadn’t heard a word about it nor had I seen a single trailer/commercial/poster for it. All I was made aware of was that it was an Australian film about a hill that may or may not be red, and the guy who plays Jason Stackhouse (Ryan Kwanten) was in it. I was going to do something I don’t think I’ve ever really done; I was going to blindly walk into a theater and watch a movie I had no prior knowledge about.
Red Hill follows Shane Cooper (Kwanten), a police officer who transfers to the small country town of Red Hill with his pregnant wife to start a family. On his first day of duty, convicted murderer Jimmy Conway breaks out of prison which sends the town into a panic. As Jimmy wreaks havoc on the town that did him wrong, it’s up to Shane to restore order and uncover the town’s dark secret.
Now to get this out of the way. When discussing Red Hill, one can’t help but draw comparisons to No Country for Old Men. After all, both are modern day westerns set in a small country town and feature a quiet, ruthless killer unleashing violence with such calm and determination. You can clearly see director/writer Patrick Hughes draws inspiration from No Country for Old Men; however, Red Hill serves more as a homage as both movies share elements but Hughes makes his vision his own.
Being that this is Patrick Hughe’s first full length feature, I have to hand it to him for putting together such a solid package. Hughes makes wonderful use of the scenery, as the Australian country side provides a beautiful backdrop for the chaos that ensues. Paired with the great soundtrack, it provides a genuine Western atmosphere that shines throughout the film. It helps that the town is set in modern times, but they seem to have been left behind. They have cars, but everybody prefers to travel by horse. I’m sure they’d have cell phones, but their area is so far removed that they probably don’t get coverage. It’s these little nuances that add to the overall feel of the movie, providing a unique experience of a period piece without it being a period piece.
Ryan Kwanten provides a fine performance in this film. Though he is essentially playing the same character he does in True Blood (dim-witted yet moralistic), it’s fitting and charming here as he bumbles his way through his new surroundings. Steve Bisley also offers a great performance as Old Bill, the curmudgeon sheriff who has a strong grip on the entire town. The most powerful performance, however, comes from someone who doesn’t even talk throughout the whole movie. Tom E. Lewis, who plays escaped prisoner Jimmy Conway, offers a stoic performance that is both electric and terrifying. Through his half charred face he is able to convey a range of emotion and action so effortlessly.
The script itself isn’t without its weak points. Though the film as a whole is refreshing, the story isn’t anything different than what we’ve seen before. Dialogue is rather stale at times and some scenes were seemingly added for the sole purpose of prolonging the film. Oftentimes, the actions of the characters are downright puzzling and infuriating as each character is all but too hesitant to pull the trigger. Rather than being a psychopathic killer on the loose, Jimmy is cold killing machine that can’t be hurt, offering no real sense of danger for his character. In one maddening scene, Jimmy stands perfectly still as an officer empties a round 6 feet away from him. The maddening part, not one of those bullets manages to even graze him. While I understand that Jimmy’s unstoppable nature is part of what makes him so terrifying, at that point, the film almost lost me as I was too busy scoffing at the impossibility. Also, there’s an extremely misplaced scene involving an animal that plays too much like a certain scene from Collateral and as such, sort of removes you, considering you’ve seen this scene in another movie.
It's all very familiar, but once you accept that, you're left with a very entertaining movie that came out of nowhere. It's a strong entry in Australian cinema (which isn't saying much considering the only other Aussie movie I've seen was Wolf Creek), and moreso a testament to director Patrick Hughes. Given the constraints of time and money, he was able to produce a very solid feature that's filled with the thrills and excitement found in any Hollywood film.
Overall Score: 7.65 – Good. (7s are good, but not great. These films often have a stereotypical plot or are great movies that have a few minor flaws. Fans of this movie’s genre might love it, but others will still enjoy seeing it in theaters.)
All in all, Patrick Hughes provides an entertaining tale of revenge. Even though you’ll swear you’ve seen this movie before, by masterfully blending Westerns and Horror in a modern backdrop, Hughes is able to provide a unique experience that is both charming and stylistic.
Overall Score: 6.20 — Red Hill goes where you think it will, but with a down under twist. Visually interesting, inspired by the impressive landscapes of Australia. A mildly entertaining story, but it loses steam half way through. You can read his full review here!
Overall Score: 8.40 — With its sprawling landscapes and epic shootouts, this movie should be truly be seen in theaters to get its full effect. It doesn’t hurt that it’s 96 minutes of exhilarating, thrilling action. I would see Red Hill again in theaters in a heartbeat (and fully plan to), I will by it on DVD, and I won’t rest until everyone I know has seen it. You can read his full review here!