Blu-ray Review: Red Hill (2010)
Red Hill (2010)
Release Date: January 26, 2011
Distributor: Sony Pictures
Director: Patrick Hughes
Cast: Ryan Kwanten, Steve Bisley, Tom E. Lewis, Claire van der Boo
Review by Robert Saucedo
Director Patrick Hughes makes his feature film debut with Red Hill, a new Australian western that feels like it could have been pulled straight from ‘70s exploitation cinema and gussied up with a fresh coat of paint. Unfortunately, this time travel must have also sucked the movie dry of all its fun. The revenge thriller starts of strong but quickly whimpers along to a maudlin ending that will leave audiences slightly disappointed.
Ryan Kwanten (True Blood) stars as Shane Cooper, a city cop who moves to the small Australian village of Red Hill seeking a little peace and quiet in his life. On his first day of work, though, Cooper is thrust into his new home’s dark history when an escaped convict rides into town looking for revenge.
Kwanten does a respectable job in his role of audience stand-in. Thrown head first into a conflict long brewing, Cooper’s role is mostly plot proxy. A sub-plot involving Cooper’s wife and the couple’s attempts to conceive a child is thrown in for emotional resonance but the sub-plot feels forced and unnecessary.
Tommy Lewis is Jimmy Conway, a scarred aboriginal who was sent to jail for the murder of his wife. After a prison explosion frees him, he hightails to Red Hill seeking to confront the local posse that put him behind bars. Leading Red Hill’s defense against Conway is Old Bill, a gruff cop who led the original posse responsible for Conway’s capture. Played by Steve Bisley, Old Bill does a fine job hyping the threat of Conway — explaining that the man was a superb tracker and capable of bringing hell down upon Red Hill. Although Hughes film is set in modern day Australia, the movie is steeped in the American western genre. From the slow paced nature of the Australian countryside — the town’s cops still ride horses occasionally — to the twangy guitar soundtrack, Red Hill is very much a movie about a deadly Indian versus a group of cocky cowboys. The film follows that the well-worn path set by a dozen other films that exist in that same particular sub-genre.
Red Hill looks spectacular — with powerful cinematography capturing the countryside’s beauty. You know a film has a great look to it when you watch an hour and a half of bloody, inhospitable vengeance and you still want to visit the movie’s filming location. Particularly impressive are the scenes that take place at night as a storm rolls into town. Cinematographer Tim Hudson nicely balances shadows and lightening to create a palpable tension to the film without overwhelming the action with impenetrable darkness.
Where the film falls flat, though, is the slow-paced story that features a rather obvious twist ending. Although Conway is heavily advertised to be the ultimate in badasses, the film takes its sweet time to show instead of tell what a threat the man actually is. It’s understandable that Red Hill would take its time to try and build growing tension as the movie established just how obviously ill-equipped the town’s police are to handle Conway’s vengeance, but once the action picks up, the film still fails to find a manageable pace. Instead, the movie quickly becomes a series of encounters between Cooper and Conway — with extra padding filling the cracks like marshmallow.
The violence is infrequent but when it does happen, it’s mostly impressive. A lot of the gore is left off-screen but Hughes, who also wrote the script, does give Conway more than a few chances to assert himself as a no-nonsense one-man army.
Red Hill has no special features included on the Blu-ray. The video is in 1080p high definition and features a widescreen ratio of 2.40.1. While there’s a little distortion during extreme close-ups, for the most part the image is immaculate and a fine compliment to the movie’s cinematography. The soundtrack is in English 5.1 DTS-HD MA. Heavy use of the multiple stereo channels and a crisp distinction between the music and dialogue means audiences are given a sound audio presentation that will illicit little to no complaints.
Red Hill is not a bad film. The movie packs a punch — it’s just that the punch is really more of a slap and it’s spread out over 90 minutes. Despite having solid cinematography, the film just doesn’t ratchet up enough visual panache to establish its own identity. If Hughes was counting on the story to make up the difference, he skimped out in that department too. The film’s close adherence to its influences means it lacks that extra bit of creativity to make the closing sale.
Red Hill does do a solid job of announcing Patrick Hughes as a filmmaker, though. While the movie is not a freshman home run, it is a clear example of a director who is going places. With a little tightening of the story, Red Hill could have been a solid addition to a well-established genre. As it is, though, the movie is sure to be seen as the bumpy yet mildy entertaining prologue to an established and well-respected career from a talented genre director.