Red Hill (Blu-ray) (2010)

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Released 19-Apr-2011

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Neo-western thriller Main Menu Audio & Animation-Live action and music from film.
Trailer-Sniper Reloaded (1:47)
Trailer-Faster (0:58)
Trailer-Justified : Season 1 (2:04)
Web Links-Get more on BD-Live
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2010
Running Time 97:30
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Patrick Hughes
Studio
Distributor
Arclight Films
Sony Pictures Home Entertain
Starring Ryan Kwanten
Steve Bisley
Tommy Lewis
Claire van der Boom
Christopher Davis
Kevin Harrington
Richard Sutherland
Ken Radley
John Brumpton
Case Standard Blu-ray
RPI $39.95 Music Dmitri Golovko


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.40:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 2.40:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
Dutch for the Hearing Impaired
Spanish
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes, Beautiful opening and credits begin six mins in.

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     Red Hill is a taut little Australian made thriller that will give you more entertainment than many big budget, overblown US films of that genre. Made on an obviously tight budget, it is the first feature of young writer/producer/director Patrick Hughes. Though this is far from a perfect first feature, there is enough here to suggest that Hughes has a bright future ahead of him in film. The box office savvy of this work - though it failed dismally locally - suggests that his future will lie in Hollywood.

     Young police officer Shane Cooper (Ryan Kwanten) has made a career move from "the big smoke" to Red Hill, a small town in the Victorian high country. His reasons for this move revolve around the problems of his pregnant wife, Alice (Claire van der Boom) to cope with city pressures. The film opens with Shane dressing for his first day's work at his new job, with his preparations marred by his inability to find his gun. (This is the first indication of problems in Patrick Hughes’ writing. Another occurs when Shane considers "Adonis" as a possible name for his unborn son). Through the opening scenes we hear in the background, over TV and radio, that there has been a prison explosion and breakout, with escaped convict Jimmy Conway (Tom E. Lewis) making his way back to Red Hill, the scene of the events that led to his imprisonment. Jimmy is out to avenge himself on those responsible for his unjust, or so he claims, conviction. Shane's gruff superior, Old Bill (Steve Bisley) orders the townspeople into lockdown awaiting the arrival of the avenging Jimmy. The film works its way to its climax, which obviously comes from Jimmy's descent upon the town, seeking justice against those whom, he claims, "done him wrong".

     This is a modern day western. Just in case you were in doubt, Alice even calls Shane "cowboy" at one stage - writing problems again. Throughout the film we are continually reminded of great westerns of the past. High Noon is the most influential in plot structure, though there are images from Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef and others. Though it is trendy to refer to these borrowings as "homages", here they are far too blatant and extensive for that term. A homage is a deferential nod by an artist to an earlier work which he or she considers superior. These are no homages. There is heavy handedness, too, in Hughes’ symbolism. A shopfront tableau featuring an aboriginal figure is one instance. Another is the marauding panther, coming into the town at night and picking off townsfolk. Like Jimmy, see. Black - get it? Hughes’ script also fails to deliver believable minor characters. The police are either brutes, like Old Bill, or bungling, cowardly slobs. The townspeople themselves just seem to disappear. Remember how in High Noon the townspeople hid behind their shutters and curtains, leaving the sole lawman to face the avenging Frank Miller?

     In his role as director, Hughes fares much better. As Hughes is also credited as "editor" he must deserve some of the praise which I give to the Director of Photography, Tim Hudson. From the opening shots the widescreen camera is allowed to paint beautiful landscapes of the Victorian countryside. Rarely have gums looked so beautiful. The night scenes in the main street are also splendidly handled, as are the interior, suspenseful sequences where continued full use is made of the screen's wide image. Tension is built very nicely and there is a taut, suspense filled ride with the young policeman to the final confrontation. The ending is only marred by another "meaningful" touch which left me with a final "what's that for?" as the image faded to black.

     The less said about the supporting performances the better, although Kevin Harrington as Sgt Jim Barlow is outstandingly awful.Steve Bisley is gruffly adequate in a role with very poor dialogue. Claire van der Boom has very little to do or say, and is probably more effective for that. Tom E., or Tommy, Lewis is fortunate in having one line of dialogue, and he is excellent. He is a singularly menacing presence, and did not need the rather silly wardrobe borrowings from - sorry, "homages to" - other avenging black angels from earlier films. Ryan Kwanten is terrific. I don't think he is ever off screen and he really impresses as this decent young policeman, with some troubles from his past, struggling with this hell of a first day on the job. Kwanten revved up the first season of his TV series True Blood with his enthusiastically wacky performance as Jason Stackhouse, Southern as all-get-out, sex mad and frequently naked. Here he becomes a very ordinary, unimpressive young man struggling to cope in extraordinary circumstances. At heart, and in essence, very Gary Cooper and not an "homage" in sight! Now nearly twenty years since Kwanten's debut in A Country Practice, the actor should have a long career in American films.

     This is a "B" movie if ever there was one. Made with enthusiasm and verve, it goes wrong many times. Still, there is an energy that sustains it for its modest length. Superb looking and sounding on Blu-ray, technically expert and a central performance that is well worth the price of admission - or of a DVD.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     The Blu-ray transfer is brilliant. This is a stunning disc. The transfer is presented at the original aspect ratio of 2.40:1, with full use made of the wide image, whether in the gleamingly beautiful countryside or the interiors. Full marks to the Director of Photography, Tim Hudson.

     The image is extremely sharp and clear, with not a flaw in sight. Colour is excellent, rather subdued but with a full range of the palette. The Victorian countryside looks realistic and beautiful. The opening seconds of grazing horses are gorgeous. Skin tones are excellent.

     Some sequences are rather heavy with grain, which I suspect has been applied to give the film a more appropriately gritty feel. Fine detail is extremely good - note the stitching on the hats - and the shadow detail mightily impressive. The evening scenes seem to drip black ink. Lush and glistening - just like the panther! There is no low level noise and a complete absence of artefacts.

     There may not be any exhibitionist visual wizardry, but this is a fabulous looking disc.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     There is one audio stream on this disc : English DTS 5.1 encoded at48 Khz.

     The soundtrack is in every way a match for the visuals. The dialogue is basically front and centre, extremely clear and without any sync problems. Extensive use is made of front and left speakers for effects. The surrounds are also used extensively, with gun shots, horses’ hooves, rain, thunder, birds - they really do get a workout, creating an immersive and exciting auditory experience. The subwoofer is also used extensively for appropriate oomph in both effects and music.

     The music itself, from Dmitri Golovko, is effective in its more pastoral interludes, but the "dramatic", rockish sections are awful. The selection of catalogue music is also questionable. The choice of what is played by Jimmy Conway on the juke box is one example. What a lost opportunity that was. I don't want to rewrite the script, but what a list of appropriate music possibilities one could provide for this scene.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

     Unfortunately this is a bare bones release.

Trailers

     All three trailers are in full high-definition and look excellent, particularly Justified, which is an amazing looking series on Blu-ray:

BD-Live

     Get more via an internet connection.

Censorship

    There is censorship information available for this title. Click here to read it (a new window will open). WARNING: Often these entries contain MAJOR plot spoilers.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 1 release is as bereft of extras as is ours.

Summary

     Red Hill is an efficient little neo-western, made in Australia and having some of the best local scenery on view for many years. The story and its themes are hugely derivative and the minor characters unbelievable with at times ludicrous dialogue. Photography and sound are top notch - as is the central performance of Ryan Kwanten. Despite the inanity of the whole thing at times, it is an enjoyable and suspenseful film that engages interest and sympathy. The Blu-ray disc is excellent in image and sound. No extras.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Garry Armstrong (BioGarry)
Wednesday, April 27, 2011
Review Equipment
DVDSONY BLU RAY BDP-S350, using HDMI output
DisplaySamsung LA55A950D1F : 55 inch LCD HD. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-DS777
SpeakersVAF DC-X fronts; VAF DC-6 center; VAF DC-2 rears; LFE-07subwoofer (80W X 2)

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
Claire van der Boom - REPLY POSTED
2-Disc DVD has tons of special features - REPLY POSTED
Red Hill Fan -