Red Hill a Poor (Aussie) Man’s Coen Bros. Western


Patrick Hughes’s feature debut starts out promisingly enough, setting the table for a square-meal genre picture. Relocated big-city cop Shane Cooper (Ryan Kwanten) reports for his first shift as deputy in Red Hill, a sleepy hick town in Australian hill country, and hell isn’t long in breaking loose. Word spreads that Jimmy Conway, an outlaw of Aboriginal origins with a violent history in Red Hill, has escaped from prison, and the cowboy police department—hard men with boiled complexions led by Steve Bisley’s sheriff—circles its wagons. Wearing a leather duster and toting a sawed-off shotgun, his half-charred face impassive and almost saurian, Tommy Lewis’s Conway is a knockoff of the implacable killing machines manufactured by the Coen Brothers. He commences a siege that contains not one commandingly strategized set piece, but instead some awful “badass” showboating (Conway putting pub-rock on the jukebox for a shoot-out), and as bodies pile, passive protagonist Cooper starts to question his loyalties. It’s clear that Hughes knows his Midnight Oil, but he’s ignorant of the craft of economic action filmmaking. However arguably noble his film’s intent to redress historical grievance, a poorly filmed shoot-out is never more than exactly that.