The western comes to Australia in Patrick Hughes' phenomenal debut feature starring True Blood's red hot Ryan Kwantan. He's Shane, a young city constable who moves to the sleepy alpine town of Red Hill. In charge is Old Bill (Steve Bisley) who sees Shane as a liability. In his mind the youngster is looking for an easy wicket or a leg-up the promotional ladder. Either way, they don't make easy company. When hardened criminal Jimmy Conway escapes and makes his way toward Red Hill, the town goes into armoured lock-down. Jimmy and Bill share history, and Jimmy is after cold, hard revenge. Just what that history is, and what makes him so dangerous, is the guts of this gripping thriller.

Red Hill is phenomenal for what it achieves with raw talent and bloody minded determination. Writer/director Hughes joined a long line of artists who have mortgaged their lives, literally, to get their films made. Faith paid off; his merging of the Western with Australian Outback Thriller pays big dividends with striking cinematography, ballsy action and distorted morality filling a glittering frame. Kwantan, a known TV quantity, steps up to the challenge of leading man and the result establishes him as an actor to watch. Solid support from grizzled veterans like Bisley and John Brumpton lend it an air of grimy authenticity.

Despite the genre-defined violence and occasional outbursts of horror, Hughes creates a distinct point of difference from the current wave of Australian movies by focussing our attention on character not gore. It's a Western foremost, and a welcome change from the fashion for home-grown torture-porn. Unfortunately, as Hughes cranks up the tension and steams forward to an explosive close, story and staging begin to overheat in a classic case of more not always being more. It's unfortunate because a willingness to pull back just a little would have seen Red Hill turn from a great film into an Australian classic.


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Ryan Kwanten
Steve Bisley
Tom E. Lewis
John Brumpton

Patrick Hughes

Patrick Hughes


MA / 95 minutes

November 25, 2010
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moviereview colin fraser film movie australia review critic flicks