Historically I haven’t seen a great deal of westerns and the ones I have seen don’t fall high on my most memorable aside from the recent outing from the Coen’s, TRUE GRIT. It’s because of a growing interest in the genre that I decided to check out RED HILL, which oddly enough combines a mixture of old western with modern thrillers that’s pretty to look at, tense and very engaging.
Shane Cooper (Ryan Kwanten) is a young cop who has moved to the isolated town of Red Hill after he was shot on duty. On his first day he’s introduced to the townsfolk and the other local police, most of them none too friendly, especially Shane’s superior Bill. When Shane goes out on a routine call he comes back to the office to find Bill rounding up locals because a skilled tracker, Jimmy Conway (Tommy Lewis), has escaped from prison. The people of Red Hill have a history Jimmy and are preparing for his inevitable return to town for his revenge.
RED HILL begins like most dramas, with the introduction of Shane and his pregnant wife as he prepares for his first day on the job. A lot of the mid section and finale resemble other genre efforts, but the tone of the film is suitably tense which makes it slightly different from other films in the genre. The set up of the town wide manhunt is done pretty well and sets a nice table for a tense and brooding showdown. There are slow spots but the pace of the film for the most part is very quick.
My favorite aspect of the RED HILL is that at times it feels like a western slasher film. One Jimmy is introduced he starts hunting town the men that are supposed to be hunting him one by one. Jimmy embodies the typical horror stalker like Jason Michael Myers except with a shotgun. He might actually have more in common with Anton Chigurh from NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN just not quite as great as a character as Chigurh was.
The score also lends to that horror feel as it blends elements from western music with classic horror movie tones that you’d find in the old 80′s slashers. The score and sound work and visuals are all the biggest draws to the film. The gunplay is often exciting to watch but it’s the sound of bullets flying by or hitting their target from long distances that I felt were done exceedingly well. For a majority of the film the violence is pretty low key in terms of actual bloodshed shown on screen, but once we approach the finale the blood gets amped up a little bit.
The Aussies are quickly finding themselves in high regard with their filmmaking with films like THE HORESMAN, ANIMAL KINGDOM and RED HILL. RED HILL is extremely entertaining, shot beautifully with lots of great sound work and an interesting score to boot. It’s not a perfect slice of cinema with some slow spots, some throwaway plot points and a less than satisfying finale but RED HILL is still a great way to spend a night in. For fans of tense and gritty westerns with a sprinkle of slasher horror it will be quite a find.