Seven shot dead on an Australian subway line, leaving one shell-shocked survivor. Another victim found dead in a remote Australian town, suggesting the killer's a local. Into this scenario comes a pedestrian and unambitious beat cop named McGahan (Brendan Cowell), who finds himself stricken with tinnitus while tasked with working on the case. Well, by working on the case we mean sitting in an RV in the suburbs waiting for locals to come by with any evidence they might have. Dirty Harry it ain't.
Matthew Saville's moody thriller is as much about atmosphere as it is about story. In the poorly lighted suburbs, the dingy apartments, and that horrible RV, we see McGahan go about his business with can only be described as utter boredom, at least when he's not freaking out about the noise in his ears. You'd think that the biggest murder case he's likely to come across in his career would jazz him a little bit, but no such luck. McGahan's a cop, he tells us, because he was too dumb to do anything else, really.
Noise can be a frustrating movie because it is so slowly paced and, as a thriller goes, nothing much happens until the slam-bang ending. The killer only vaguely plays those movie games we've come to expect with the cops who're looking for him, so don't expect any Seven-like chases through dark alleys and abandoned buildings as the killer leads on our hero. No, in Noise he leaves a photograph of the subway survivor on the RV doorstep with a note ("dead meat") scrawled on it. Drama!
And yet despite some serious moments of tedium, the movie often succeeds by strangely combining a real sense of dread with one of its protagonists' sheer boredom. We know the killer will strike again, but no one seems to care very much unless it means they'll get home in time for Christmas. (They don't.)
Noise is uncomfortable and a little maddening, as you wait (and wish) for something to happen. Its inevitable showdown is anticlimactic. The getting there is often frustrating. And yet Noise is full of interesting motifs and symbolism, making a curious statement about detachment from one's surroundings, no matter how thrilling they may seem to outside observers.
The DVD includes copious deleted scenes, making-of footage, and a short film.