Title: Red Hill
Directed by: Patrick Hughes
Starring: Ryan Kwanten, Steve Bisley, Claire van der Boom and Tommy Lewis
Red Hill: not only is it a place aimed to showcase a largely uninhabited area of Australia that many people don’t know about, but it’s also the place that highlights the talents of a cast and crew that many people aren’t familiar with. The new independent drama, which was directed and written by newcomer Patrick Hughes, and features actors Steve Bisley, Tom E. Lewis and ‘True Blood’s Ryan Kwanten, is the latest testament proving that Hollywood isn’t the only place that creates great western-thrillers.
The movie follows a young city police officer, Shane Cooper (played by Kwanten), as he moves to the small town of Red Hill from the big city. He wants to provide his wife Alice (portrayed by Claire van der Boom) with a safe, quiet environment during her pregnancy. However, things don’t go as Shane planned on the first day of his new job, when a convicted murderer, Jimmy Conway (played by Lewis), escapes from prison.
Jimmy, who once lived in Red Hill, returns to take his revenge out on the town, especially the head of the police department, Old Bill (portrayed by Bisley). While Jimmy is hunting down Old Bill and the rest of the locals who helped send him to prison, Shane is left to protect himself and struggle to survive for his wife and unborn child.
At first, ‘Red Hill’ didn’t seem as though it would be extremely original or well-shot. The low-budget western-thriller is Hughes’ first full-length movie. The production only lasted four weeks, so it seemed likely that it would just feature under-developed roles and scenic shots of the Australian countryside and cheap effects.
But the ten-year commercial director veteran proved that his years of struggling to break into the film industry served him well, as he was able to inject his life experiences into the script. Much like Shane had to work to provide for Alice and their child, Hughes worked hard to get the film made, saying “We made the film independently, raising the money privately; the production went ahead with neither a distributor attached nor any government funding beyond a location grant.” He has also said that he even had to use “second-hand film stock from…’Entourage’ and ‘Fast and Furious.'”
As the movie’s writer, Hughes expertly formed the relationship between Shane and Bill. He knew to make the young officer ready to please his superiors, while secretly questioning their motives and actions.
Kwanten and Bisley further expanded the tension between the two officers. Not being afforded the opportunity to discuss how to approach their on-screen relationship, the two actors brought their unfamiliarity with each other to the screen. “What was different about this film was that there wasn’t a whole abundance of talk beforehand, because we didn’t have the luxury of that time. But what that afforded us was a different kind of freedom,” Kwanten has said of ‘Red Hill.’
Playing an Australian again for the first time in eight years, Kwanten also showed his diversified acting skills. While primarily known in America for playing womanizer slacker Jason Stackhouse on ‘True Blood,’ Kwanten was also expertly able to play the committed, responsible Shane. He proved what a great actor he is by caring for Alice and being determined to keep his family safe. Kwanten has also said that he is able to bring an authenticity to every role by bringing his real-life experiences to the set.
Bisley was also a great presence on the screen, as he brought a believability to the role of Bill. The town’s head of police thinks he’s more important than he really is, and wants to control everything that goes on in Red Hill. Bisley played his role completely different from Kwanten, which helped drive the plot’s conflict. When Jimmy returns to the town, ready to kill all the locals, the viewer will be so caught up in Bisley’s acting that they’ll want to know what exactly Bill did to Jimmy. As Kwantan has said of his co-star, Bisley has a huge legacy in Australia, which really played well in his portrayal of Bill.
As Hughes has rightfully said of ‘Red Hill,’ the plot is all about revenge, redemption and sacrifice, and is a perfect tribute to the American western. Anyone who enjoyed ‘No Country For Old Men’ and ‘Deliverance,’ movies Hughes has said inspired him, will definitely enjoy his take on the western-thriller genre.
Written by: Karen Benardello