Red Hill Movie Review
Shane (Kwanten) is a young city cop who has just arrived in the small Australian town of Red Hill with his pregnant wife (van der Bloom). And his first day on the job turns out to be rather momentous. First, his new boss (Bisley) and a grumpy officer (Sutherland) give him difficult jobs to do. Then a ruthless killer (Lewis) escapes from prison and heads straight to Red Hill.
Yes, Shane's first day descends into mad chaos. And there's clearly "something else" going on here.
So far so good, and filmmaker Hughes builds a palpable sense of menace as the plot develops. On the other hand, he also drops in early references to a wild panther and an approaching mega-storm, signposting everything so heavily that it's difficult to be surprised by what happens along the way, however random it seems. And the solid central narrative begins to get shoved aside by all of these arbitrary and pointless plot elements.
Kwanten holds the film together very nicely as the city-slicker forced to overcome his past in order to move forward. His wrenching fear resonates strongly, as does his resolve to protect his wife and get to the bottom of an increasingly dangerous situation that's feeling shadier by the moment. As he does in True Blood, he brings a terrific sense of physicality to the role, throwing himself into the action scenes in a way that's thoroughly believable.
Even as Hughes keeps the tone low-key and steady, he pushes every element far over-the-top. It's like he doesn't trust the central character and main plot to hold our interest, so he continually distracts us by filling scenes with extraneous hyperbole. For example, the killer is more like a comic book villain than a real person, and his story plays out in an interesting way that's unnecessarily preachy and sentimental. But we never really doubt how it'll all end. The bigger question is when that panther will turn up.