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(2.5 STARS) Modern-Day Western Needs a Better Script
on October 12, 2011
"Red Hill" is a modern-day take on the Western genre. There is also an allegorical element to the familiar revenge story and cardboard characters (including a mysterious panther). And perhaps a political angle, too. I think I know these things, but to me "Red Hill" is just another so-so action movie with lots of clichés.
The film starts slowly with a young police officer Shane Cooper (Ryan Kwanten), who has just relocated to a quiet town of Red Hill with his loving wife Alice (Claire van der Boom) - quiet until Jimmy Conway (Tom E. Lewis), a prisoner serving a life term for murder breaks out of a maximum security prison. Apparently Jimmy Conway is heading for Red Hill, where police officers and townspeople are ready to gun down the escaped convict.
Acting is good and Ryan Kwanten is effective as a likable hero, but it is Steve Bisley as Old Bill, head of the police force, who steals the show. To his credit, writer/director Patrick Hughes (his feature debut) managed to create some tension in action scenes.
But the storyline is predicable, borrowing every narrative device you can think of from other Western movies or crime thrillers. You can see the underwhelming climax from miles away. This might not have been a big problem if the film had been directed with more confidence. Sometimes "Red Hill" does not know what it want to do - embrace the conventions or reinvent them. Also, I frankly don't know what the film's weird subplot about a panther is all about.
This is not to say "Red Hill" is a bad film. It is just disappointingly weak.