So once again we have survived.

Red Hill

tn_redhill“Alice, have you seen my gun? I thought I packed it with the photos.”

That’s the first line in RED HILL. It describes kind of a random, odd occurrence, but it also tells us alot. Shane Cooper (Ryan Kwanten) is a cop, he’s just moved, his gun is as important to him as his family memories– or he thought it was, but then he misplaced it. Now he’s looking for it because shit, he has to get to his first day of work here in the small town of Red Hill and he’s gonna look like an idiot if he shows up with no gun.

mp_redhillWell, that’s what he ends up having to do. And we quickly learn more: his wife is pregnant, he’s from a big city, his paranoia about the locals here not liking him is completely justified. In fact he meets the sheriff Old Bill (Steve Bisley) after watching his fiery town hall speech about not letting outsiders change the town. Shane walks up to introduce himself and shake hands, but Old Bill leaves him hanging, just walks past him really fast pointing at his empty holster asking, “Where’s your firearm?” And not in a joking-around-with-the-new-guy type of tone.

The other cops aren’t too welcoming either. They laugh at him for saying “yes sir” and make him ride a horse instead of drive a police vehicle. It’s not as bad a first day on the job as that dude in RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD, but it’s pretty shitty. And while his shitty first day is unfolding there’s something much more horrendous headed his way that nobody is quite paying attention to yet. First a TV report about an explosion at a prison. Then the other cops find out it’s Jimmy Conway (Tom E. Lewis), a guy they busted, and they know he’s coming their way for revenge. Uh, could somebody loan me a gun?

It’s basically a western, a bunch of lawmen with rifles setting up strategically to take out the outlaw who’s headed their way. But he’s Like a Force of Nature (LaFoN), he just keeps plowing through, killing all the cops without saying a word. Also half of his face is burned (from the explosion? From before?) so he’s got a good villainous look. They say more than once that “he’s hunting us down like dogs!” but come on man, this guy is a killer but I doubt he goes around shooting dogs. Who does that? Nobody does that. I know I’ve pointed this out before, but it’s worth repeating as long as this phrase persists. The truth is if he was hunting them down the same way people hunt down dogs that would mean he was petting them, talking to them in baby talk and giving them snacks. In general people are nice to dogs, in my opinion.

There’s definitely a tension here, a masculinity competition. Shane’s not a burly dude or anything, and he knows they think he’s soft ’cause he’s from a city, he doesn’t know how to ride a horse, etc. But really he shouldn’t have worried about that. He’s the one that carries a wounded cop around on his back. He can handle himself, but some of these other guys can’t. One cop misses Jimmy with six shots at close range. Jimmy fires back with more accuracy.

It should also be noted that Jimmy uses a boomerang in one scene. As I have mentioned recently, I personally believe boomerangs are awesome.

There’s more to it, but it’s a simple story so I’ll hold back some details. But there are some themes going on about colonialism and indigenous peoples, small town people vs. city people, generational differences, changing times, shit like that. But nothing pretentious, it’s all there plain as day but nobody talking about it or making a speech or anything. It’s tasteful.

The filmatism is very quiet and direct, the shootouts have a realistic feel of chaos while still being visually clear. There are some really cool cinematic touches, but nothing too flashy. I liked a part where he’s breaking into a car, and the POV of the shot is inside the car, so the sound is muffled until the window breaks and then you can hear all the rain coming down hard outside. And the scene where he’s locked in the trunk of a car and watches what’s going on through a bullet hole.

This is a good movie, and the first half or so kinda feels like a great movie. There’s nothing wrong with the second half, but it pretty much goes where you expect it, no big surprises, nothing spectacular enough to take it to the next level. Well, except there’s a thing about a panther on the loose. I gotta admit I didn’t expect a panther in this movie, or most movies in general. Anyway, this RED HILL one is pretty good.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Thursday, December 2nd, 2010 at 10:30 pm and is filed under Crime, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

21 Responses to “Red Hill”

  1. Warning: spoilery talk

    I wanted to like this movie. I think the packing his gun along with his family photos thing makes the hero an idiot regardless of metaphorical intent. It’s a shame too because this year Australia has really been hitting it out of the park cinematically. I think all the cops are inept and I honestly can’t think of a good reason why the bad guy let the hero live the first couple of times he had the drop on him. Once the villain figured out the hero had a kid on the way it made sense, but that was like three “should’ve died”s ago.

    In short, this movie has characters that are about as smart as the characters from the second and third episodes of the Walking Dead. By which I mean, they’re all a bunch of goddamn dummies.

  2. (SPOILS)
    (SPOILING)
    (SPOILED)




    Well in the one scene I thought he let him live because of the baby name book, but by the end I felt that he was specifically targeting the motherfucks who screwed him over. But also could relate to him because of the baby thing.

  3. My take on it was that Billy had a specific vendetta against the posse. In his initial encounter with Shane, Shane is more concerned for the hostages than his own life, which probably struck Billy as odd. Plus, he (SPOILER) did let the hostages live (END SPOILER) which again suggests he was only after the posse members.

    I really loved this film. The panther was just nuts, and the scene in the walk-in freezer was excellent.

  4. Just watched the trailer for this, can’t wait to see it. And isn’t that Vinny Patterson from Home And Away in the lead?

  5. one guy from andromeda

    December 3rd, 2010 at 6:57 am

    i also sometimes wonder about hunting someone down like dogs. i have come to the conclusion that maybe the dogs are supposed to be the hunter, as opposed to the “huntee”. he’s hunting us down like a pack of dogs would hunt us down. but then why not he’s hunting us down like a dog? on second thought that doesnt make that much sense either…

  6. There is always going to be trouble when a big city cop moves to a small town. I think this guy is a moron though. Not only did he lose his gun but obviously he didn’t check out the podunk town he’d gotten hired into somehow.

    “Gee honey, I couldn’t find a website for the town but the Wikipedia article said the town is full of angry change resistant yokels.”

    “No, you know people mess around with those articles. It’s probably a great place!”

  7. Hey, at least there were no shark attacks.

  8. i liked this movie a lot. like vern says, no big surprises, but a tight, focused, and well told story.

    SPOILERS

    @brandon if your main problem with this movie is you think jimmy was dumb for letting shane live you should pay more attention to things you are watching, since it was pretty fucking clear and logical what was going on there.

  9. Saw this at Fantastic Fest and was utterly disappointed. Felt like it was made for TBS.

    My main problem was the complete lack of originality or style. Just very bland.

    For me, it’s difficult to appreciate a movie like RED HILL when movies like THE PROPOSITION exist.

  10. Wabalicious Monkeynuts

    December 3rd, 2010 at 11:35 am

    I thought it was a great film, slow-burning tension all the way. Yeah, it was a bit implausible in parts, but i don’t watch films for 100% realism. @Ace, it is indeed Vinnie from Home and Away, he’s great in it too. Jim Goose from Mad Max is an absolute cunt as Old Bill, it’s worth watching for his angry turn alone. Tom E. Lewis is just unstoppable as Jimmy, he’s a great actor.

  11. The Goose. I never, ever, thought I would see that name mentioned in a present-day review. I must buy this film now.

  12. @ron- I must say your telling me to pay attention was well played. And a nice burn. And also, eat a bag of dicks (respectfully). Now I will proceed to try and defend myself concisely. My biggest problem was that the characters were idiots and until it becomes clear why the bad guy let the hero live it was pretty confounding to me why the guy was still alive. Having recently been subjected to large groups of dummies via “The Walking Dead” I couldn’t stand any of the townsfolk. Not that I should have liked them because they were bad guys I just really got soured on spending all this time with them.

    You can chock some of this anger up to my failure to recognize that the bad guy might not have been a complete force of evil. I wouldn’t have killed the old people anyway because they’re fucking old, but at the time he let the hero live I didn’t have a reason to think he wasn’t just a cop killing machine and that he had noble aims. I mean I saw and loved “The Horseman” and outside of his desire for revenge I didn’t think he was a bad dude at all. Knowing what he was doing I still would’ve taken a ride from him if I were a pregnant teenage girl. I kind of like the dude so much I would give him a hug even now

    All that being said, it did all the damage long before the course correction was made and it doesn’t really change the fact that they’re all idiots.

  13. *not all the characters are idiots, the killer isn’t.

    Would love me an edit button or a make things make fucking sense button for my rambling.

  14. Sorry to do one of those off topics here, but did Faster come out in the rest of the world? I don’t think its coming out in the UK. Anyone see it? Looked like a good old fashioned revenge number to these old fashioned eyes.

  15. Ace: Check out the Potpourri for my none-too-flattering thoughts on FASTER.

  16. I’m kind of surprised that people didn’t like this. It’s a pretty solid film, while being obviously derivative of Westerns, but isn’t that the point? It seemed to me like he was making a Western, so of course it going to seem like a Western. And to be fair to the “cops”, people are saying acting stupidly, most of them weren’t cops, they were just townsfolk. And it was Slim, the barber, not a cop who missed Jimmy, Vern. So that might explain why he’s such a crap shot. That was one of the things I liked about this film, not all the characters were big shot heroes. When Slim was first given a gun, he looked quite nervous about the whole thing. With good reason as it turns out.
    I just really enjoyed seeing the bush as well. I suppose most people think that they live in one of, if not the, most beautiful countries on earth, and I really think they captured it well.
    I think the trailer kind of gave too much away, and would have appreciated going into the film not knowing as much as I did. It might have been obvious anyway, but at least I might have had some time to feel the threat for the townsfolk more. I won’t say anything else there, as I’m getting a bit close to what hasn’t been mentioned. Anyway, I really liked it, and I’ll probably go check it out again. It looked pretty good for a first movie independently made, so good on him.

  17. man i gotta say living in Australia as a Yank i feel kinda out of place and not in tune with the culture but you guys are making me feel i should just suck it up and watch movies like Red Hill and Animal Kingdom when they come out

  18. I finally got around to watching this last night, and I agree with Vern that it is a pretty straight forward bare bones story, but I really liked it. Off the top of my head I would have to say this one of the best westerns made in the past ten years (another favorite of mine is also from Australian, THE PROPOSITION).

    (Spoiler Talk) I thought Jimmy was also keeping Shane alive so that he could tell the story of what really happened. That way others would have to ask why Jimmy killed so many of the towns people, but on two occasions let Shane live. Also, in the scene where Jimmy finds the baby book on Shane and puts it in Shane’s coat pocket it was as if Jimmy was saying to Shane you have more important things to live for this has nothing to do with you so stay out of it.

  19. I noticed something watching this movie again the other day. You could argue that it is an action film told from the perspective of the sidekick/bystander instead of the hero. RED HILL is truly Jimmy’s story and Shane is just caught up in it. It would be like if DIE HARD where told from the perspective of Sgt. Powell instead of John McClane. Actually, Powell and Shane are similar characters with almost identical character arcs. They are both cops with something to prove that have had issues drawing their gun after unfortunate experiences where they were forced to draw their firearms on a child. Both also get caught up in something much bigger than them and trust the hero when no one else does, and (SPOILERS) both find redemption when they are called upon to use their guns to save the hero.

  20. Forgot about this movie until re-reading this review. I really liked this one. The whole escaped-con-comes-to-small-town-for-revenge-and-new-guy-from-the-city-has-to-save-the-day isn’t my favorite Standard Action Movie Plot (STAMP), but because of interesting characters, solid direction, etc. I quickly got past the generic set up and had fun. I think Ryan Kwanten could eventually make a career playing a Bruce-like reluctant yet capable action hero.

    Also, as far as the dog saying goes… I think the dogs are the hunters. I think it’s like, “He’s hunting them down as if he were a pack of dogs and they were rabbits or pheasants or foxes or whatever.” Which is still a pretty lame phrase.

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