Wednesday, November 3, 2010
Patrick Hughes' primal thriller RED HILL rivets and moves us in equal measure
RED HILL, the new Australian movie from writer/director Patrick Hughes. At its core is a country’s history, telescoped down to a single event -- and the long-brewing aftermath of that event. Younger viewers, those who have come to movies too late to remember the 1970s and the resurgence of the Australian film industry during that decade, will probably accept Red Hill on its own initial-if-deceptive, simply-a-thriller terms. And that's fine -- because the movie certainly does provide a series of non-stop thrills, each one backed up by something primal and upsetting. Things are more than amiss here. Civilization is threatened.
Wes Craven made Red Eye. Mr. Hughes (pictured, left) is a relative newcomer to the international film scene. He's made only three short films in over a decade, but Red Hill, his first full-length feature, should change his status fast.
Tommy Lewis (shown above), star of one of those seminal '70 Australian films, The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith). Its themes -- from birth and death to vengeance and the animal nature of man -- while present and accounted for are not driven home with a hammer. Finally, there is the idea of the "imported" menace: the wild animal said to be killing the livestock (below) harks back to the importation of British criminals and the destruction of the Aborigines that soon followed. While none of this is "stated," all of it is present in the tale itself.
Ryan Kwanten (shown at bottom and best known for True Blood), only Mr. Lewis may ring a bell with older "arthouse" audiences. Kwanten is very good, by the way: direct and real, as believable as a young cop and father-to-be as he is a dead-set hero when the occasion demands. Lewis remains a force of nature who finally and rightly commandeers the movie. Equally fine is Steve Bisley as Kwantan's no-nonsense new boss, who has a surprise or two up his sleeve, as well.
Jimmie Blacksmith chants again!
AMC Empire 25 and the Clearview Cinema Chelsea. Other venues should follow fast, once word-of-mouth takes off.