Red Hill (2010)
By: Devon B. on April 30, 2012  | 
Sony | Region 4, PAL | 2.40:1 (16:9 enhanced) | English DD 5.1 | 93 minutes (Full Specs)
The Movie
Cover Art
Director: Patrick Hughes
Starring: Tom E. Lewis, Ryan Kwanten, Steve Bisley
Screenplay: Patrick Hughes
Country: Australia
External Links
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I'm not sure if I like True Blood or not. I'm not a big fan of vampires in general, and like them even less when they can easily kill werewolves, because werewolves are way cooler. Way. I usually don't like the dopey characters on TV shows, either, but I found myself growing to like Ryan Kwanten's character in spite of myself, and now he's one of the highlights of the program for me. I believe this is far more to do with Kwanten's performance than the material he's working with, so I was interested in Red Hill when I saw that it starred Kwanten.

In Red Hill, Kwanten has transferred from the city to a small town in the Victorian high country called Red Hill. This caused me a fair bit of confusion since I live near Red Hill, Victoria, and I ain't anywhere near the high country. The film was actually shot in Omeo, so the name "Red Hill" was probably picked 'cause it sounded cooler than Omeo. Anyway, Kwanten meets up with some colourful locals and his tough commanding officer (Steve Bisley, who is no doubt best known for Frontline) and gets off to a patchy start with him. Bisley doesn't approve of Kwanten's bleeding heart policing and to make matters worse poor Kwanten's in for a rough first day thanks to Murphy's law. It always seems like anything that can go wrong on the first day of a job does, and Kwanten's started on the same day an ex-con has escaped and is heading back to Red Hill for revenge on those that put him away. Kwanten runs afoul of him, but by chance he survives, however he is isolated from rest of force and must make his way back to town before too much blood is shed. Gee, I wonder if Kwanten have a change of heart that will enable him to be harder with wrongdoers?

Red Hill is a modern Australian Western that has a simple story, but it's well presented and well acted. It has a very deliberate start, not unlike executive produce Greg McLean's Wolf Creek, but in Red Hill the beginning doesn't feel as laboured. There appears to be a continuity boo boo, perhaps due to a short scene missing somewhere, but otherwise the movie does what it wants to successfully. It does pop in a few odder elements, but I enjoyed them for the tall tale aspect they brought. I'm not saying the movie is entirely logical, but it's emulating classic Ozploitation, and that wasn't the most sensible genre to start with, so Red Hill's nonsense makes sense. For example, one character is a remarkably good shot with a handgun, another is so unbelievably poor he could audition to be Storm Trooper. I wouldn't buy this in a realistic film, but these sort of things fit fine within the framework of Red Hill.

The cover of Red Hill makes Kwanten out to be some sort of tough guy, and the "utterly badass" quote on the back doesn't help. Kwanten is not playing a badass, so I'm not really sure why this misconception has happened. No, the badass in this movie is Tom E. Lewis, who we know is badass 'cause he's the town's best brumby tracker. I recognised Lewis from The Proposition, but he's been around a long time. Red Hill kept reminding me of The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith, but I put that down to the fact that they were both movies about an aboriginal guy seeking vengeance, plus they're both named Jimmy or Jimmie. It would seem I was meant to draw that connection because Lewis actually played both characters. How badass was Lewis in Red Hill? I haven't been this impressed with someone since I first saw Chow Yun-Fat in The Killer. Lewis is fantastic as the mute murderer focused on violently wiping out those he thinks wronged him, and if Red Hill doesn't turn him into an action hero there is no justice in this world. I think he'd be great as a Clint Eastwood type anti-hero, and he's already starred in two Australian Westerns so he could be heading in that direction. By the half way point I didn't give a fuck about any of the other characters, I just wanted more of Lewis, and now I want to see vehicles built around him. Lewis didn't just steal the show, in my mind he's poised to steal the entire Australian film industry.

Red Hill isn't anything new, but it's an enjoyable throwback, and Australia is the perfect place to be making Westerns these days. Here's hoping this leads to more of 'em.
Red Hill is aiming for a darker, grittier feel, so the print isn't immaculate, 'cause it couldn't feel like a 70s revenge flick if it looked completely clean. Given the style, the transfer is solid.
The audio is fairly subdued for the first half hour as everything is being set up, but the rears are active for music. The track picks up when the action kicks in, and it's impressive. Sometimes the bass is a bit light on for rifle shots, but it's present for other things like car engines, so that must be style choice. The gunfire is otherwise well rendered, as is actual fire and a building storm.
Extra Features
Trailers for Fair Game, The City of Your Final Destination and The Hit List. The lack of extras is a real shame, because I wanted to know more about the making of this one.

A 2 disc "Collector's Edition" is also available and includes an alternate ending, deleted scenes, Red Hill: 24 Days of Adrenaline featurette and more.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
I came to the movie for Kwanten, and he did well, but by the end Red Hill was all about Lewis. By all rights this performance should make him an icon of Australian cinema. Maybe he could star in a movie with Danny Trejo, but that would probably be so badass that viewers' heads would just explode as their eyes desperately tried to process all the awesomeness.

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