Red Hill - Blu-ray Review

'attempts to cultivate a town-under-siege feel but Hughes is much more comfortable directing straight shooting thriller moments than he is crafting tense stand-offs'

An Australian Western with a few nods to the Horror genre and more than a few glances in the direction of Quentin Tarantino (at one stage a bad man with a large gun pauses mid killing spree to activate a jukebox), Red Hill is an aspirational piece of film-making from newcomer Patrick Hughes. Set in the small titular town, Hughes out-pulps the king of pulp with his plot: rookie cop Shane (Ryan Kwanten) arrives in town just as the prison walls fall down and boogie-man figure Jimmy Conway (Tommy Lewis) rides on to main street intent on making things go 'boom' with varying degrees of firearm.

The main problem with Hughes' opus is exactly those degrees of 'boom'. It carries a 15 rating in the UK, mainly for some blood but, despite the body count being fairly high, the horror is stale and the tension close to non-existent. It attempts to cultivate a town-under-siege feel but Hughes is much more comfortable directing straight shooting thriller moments than he is crafting tense stand-offs in and around Red Hill's centre and its rare that the mini-confrontations reach long enough or cut deep enough.

Even when the film isn't being completely successful though it takes great pains to make sure it looks beautiful. The cinematography by Tim Hudson is stunning both in the dark of the town and out in the landscapes of Red Hill's own version of The West's prairie. The superb Blu-ray transfer captures all of the subtle moments of lighting depth that Hudson gives the picture although it does also pick out the moments where post-production editing have given the images (often the background) a look just on the wrong side of artificial.

It enters some dodgy and unnecessary territory towards the end (there's a bizarre metaphor that creeps in late on - alert viewers will spot what's coming from early hints) but there's enough skill here to buy what Hughes is selling. The lead trio of Kwanten, Lewis and Steve Bisley inhabit characters that are developed enough to engage with, even if the rest of the canon-fodder posse are as anonymous as the cows. As a creative calling card for a new director Hughes could have done a lot worse than this and could have done it in a film much uglier than Red Hill, which occasionally sparkles despite noticeable flaws and a discernible lack of teeth.

Look further...

'the closest thing to a Peckinpah film I’ve seen in a good while' - Hot Dogs In The Dark, 4.5/5


  1. Bugger! How is you have heard of this Aussie film and I haven't?! We normally get all the Aussie films here and this one is news to me.
    If you are in an Aussie film mood then Wolf Creek is a reasonble movie. It done well at the Aussie box office but was very controversial for it's content. I think it was actually banned from NZ theatres if I remember correctly...( bloody conservative lot us Kiwis apparently! ), and yet is avaliable on DVD as an R-18. Go figure!
    Romper Stomper ( 1992-3 ) is another good one starring Russell Crowe before he made it big in Hollywood. Very, very controversial in its day for its apparent racism and was very violent, but looks tame now. It came very close to being banned from NZ cinemas and had the reverse effect that everyone went to see it!! I've reviewd it on my blog if you are interested and can find it!
    The Aussies do make some excellent films as Animal Kingdom testifies to. My Year Without Sex, is another good film about a woman who suffers an anurisim. And Chopper with Eric Bana is a worthy watch on one of Oz's most infamous criminals.
    I must admit to liking Aussie films, and it is a shame they aren't more prodigious at it considering the population and money in Australia. Their film industry is in far better shape than NZ's which is virtually non-existant nowadays as I've told you.

  2. I saw part of WOLF CREEK a few years ago and thought it was terrifying. I do need to go back and watch it in full when I get chance. ROMPER STOMPER and CHOPPER have been on my 'must see that one day' lists for ages, one day I'll get round to them.

    This is decent, original film making so if you can get hold of it in NZ I'd recommend giving it a try.