Dr. Froot Loop
October 18, 2013
Director: Ivan Sen
Is there an Australian actor who didn’t make an appearance in local auteur, Ivan Sen’s latest film Mystery Road? Well, perhaps Lynette Curran didn’t get a chance because she’s one of the busiest women in show business, but it seems like Sen managed to draft most of Australia’s acting veterans, and a few rising stars to tell his the story of his contemporary outback Western.
Recently returned to his isolated hometown from the big smoke, Aaron Pedersen plays Jay, an accomplished, but still wet-behind-the-ears detective. His very first cases is the murder of a teenaged indigenous girl, whose body is found in the opening of the film by a truckie investigating a bad smell emanating from a culvert.
As Jay begins to unravel the mystery of her murder, he encounters mistrust from the mob he left behind years before, and outright hostility from his fellow officers, who don’t even bother to hide their bigotry. Chief among them is a drawling sleazebag narcotics and vice detective, Johnno (Hugo Weaving), whose not-so-subtle jibes are sounding out Jay’s loyalties and morality.
Sen – who in typical auteurial style, wrote, directed, shot, edited, and composed the music for his film – was inspired by a similar murder of a young woman who was distantly related to his own mob, and the anger and disappointment at official indifference to the fates of the fictional and real-life victims fairly sizzles in his lead actor’s studied and taciturn performance. Featuring a suitably dramatic and bloody climax in the barren hills outside the town, Mystery Road – like that other powerful Australian example Red Hill – skilfully blends Western tropes with outback modernity.