Mystery Road review: dark secrets under the glare of the Aussie sun

Film Title: Mystery Road

Director: Ivan Sen

Starring: Aaron Pedersen, Hugo Weaving, Ryan Kawnten

Genre: Thriller

Running Time: 118 min

Fri, Aug 29, 2014, 00:00


Token indigenous Aussie cop Jay returns to the rural Queensland town where he grew up to investigate the brutal killing of a teenage girl. He is offered little or no assistance from fellow officers, who smirk at him from corners of the station. Jay’s inquiries soon suggest that there’s something even more troubling than casual racism going on. But will One Good Cop be enough to untangle a knot of prostitution, drugs, social deprivation, ’roo hunting, wild dogs and corruption?

Writer-director Ivan Sen’s compelling, award-winning police procedural is characterised by dark secrets and the relentless glare of the sun. At first glance, it’s Walkabout reworked as noir. On closer inspection Aaron Petersen’s subtle commanding performance signals that we are, in fact, watching a displaced western, replete with a wild frontier, dangerous hicks, an air of lawlessness and a charismatic hero in a hat.

There are complex societal and racial issues lurking beneath every exchange. By getting on in the white man’s world, Jay has become estranged from his own kind. His former partner can scarcely mask her resentment; his teenage daughter is a total stranger.

Hugo Weaving’s turn as a problematic copper is equally accomplished: the actor twitches with menace and charm in a way that recalls his Elrond and Agent Smith in equal measures. You’ll never guess until the final reel.

Remember the 1990s? Remember the Australian New Wave? Remember when you’d never miss an Antipodean film? Mystery Road seems to have time-travelled from those halcyon days right into a cinema near you. A superior and taut outback adventure, you’d have to go back to Samson and Delilah to find an Australian feature this bonsa. Don’t miss it.