2010. Directed by Patrick Hughes,
Red Hill, Patrick Hughes' debut feature is a sweaty wifebeater neo-western that uses a tried and true formula to deliver a tightly wound revenge story on the unforgiving plains of the Australian outback.
Shane (played by Ryan Kwanten) is a young police officer who moves to Red Hill after being wounded in the line of duty (for refusing to fire his weapon) and the miscarriage of his wife. Looking to rebuild his life with his now pregnant wife, Shane receives a cold reception from Old Bill, the town's reigning Sheriff. On his first day on the job, Shane learns that Jimmy Conway, a notorious murderer has broken out of prison and is heading straight for Red Hill to enact revenge for his imprisonment.
Hughes directed, wrote, and edited the film, giving it his personal vision throughout. One of the more potent aspects of the film is Conway's quasi-supernatural presence as the specter hunting those who've "wronged" him, conjuring Michael Myers with every skulking, wordless, kill. The violence is abrupt and brutal, forsaking bravado and dialing up the tension with a sense of homicidal brevity.
The three leads deliver amazing, juxtaposed performances. Kwanten carries the lead in a film in which his character is not really the focus. He's a passive lens through which the audience experiences the tale, and it's his innocent portrayal that inspires a sense of loyalty as the bullets begin to fly. Steve Bisley as the no nonsense sheriff is equally compelling, as his take on Old Bill is both menacing and humanly flawed, something these kinds of films often overlook. Usually the evil that men do is an afterthought. Bisley keeps it on display in every scene. Tom E. Lewis delivers a wordless powerhouse turn as the killer Conway. Despite the story being predictable, you find yourself not caring and wanting more of the scarred killer's accusing long stares whenever he's not on screen blasting his way to absolution.
Tim Hudson's cinematography is grainy and drenched in burned browns, complimenting the killer's burned visage and the purgatorial environs of Red Hill. The town itself is populated by secretive folk, and Nicola Dunn's costume design focuses on dust and leather while maintaining the mirage of a town out of time. Dmitri Golovko's score is at one time an homage the old west while also playing with the slasher flick motifs, forming a somber and hair raising musical narrative of Conway's night of blood.
Available now for digital rental, Red Hill is a must see for fans of violent vendetta woven stories. It doesn't break any new ground or plum anything new in the genre, but it is a film that is expertly crafted and a high powered, hell of a good time to watch.