(Patrick Hughes, 2010)
Young city Cop Shane Cooper (Ryan Kwanten) and his wife relocate for personal reasons to the Outback town of Red Hill. On his first day on the job, he forgets his gun, antagonises his new boss, the Inspector Old Bill (Steve Bisley), who virtually rules the town, and finds himself in the middle of an emergency when feared ex-tracker Jimmy Conway escapes prison and heads straight for town, seemingly bent on some sort of vengeance.
Explicitly evoking the mood and narrative tropes familiar from a host of classic westerns, Hughes emphasises these similarities through the use of a Western-style soundtrack and some wonderful landscape cinematography. The Outback here is wild, brutal and beautiful, people isolated against its expanse and beneath its immense skies. When night comes, it comes as a black void above the huddled little town. The first act is paced like a Western - slowly and patiently establishing the setting and characters, allowing the tension to build during seemingly innocuous scenes until it bursts to life with Jimmy's arrival. Even then, it takes its time, preferring to generate suspense than indulge in spectacular action scenes. Hughes understands what works in genre filmmaking, meaning that there is a really effective mix here of Western iconography, thriller suspense and short, brutal modern action sequences. The characters may largely obey the considerations of a formula just as slavishly as the storyline, but for the most part, that approach works extremely well, and the tension holds throughout the second and third acts despite the regularity of the action scenes and the plot revelations and reversals breaking it up.
It may be extremely predictable, but it is generally very well done, with strong performances and beautifully effective direction from Hughes.
A modest, likably intense little b-movie then, with more impact than many bigger budget films in the same genre.