November 19, 2014
Intrigue in Seattle, murder Down Under and a backwards-looking family movie – this week’s best DVDs reviewed.
Written and directed by award-winning half-Aboriginal filmmaker Ivan Sen (Toomelah), Mystery Road (Axiom Films) tells the story of Aboriginal detective Jay Swan (Aaron Pedersen, Jack Irish), who returns to his home town in rural Queensland after a spell in the big city, only to be handed a case involving the brutal murder of an indigenous teenage girl. Alienated by the white-dominated police force, and ostracised by the local Aborigine community, Jay must fend for himself as tensions threaten to boil over on all sides.
Mystery Road is a sun-bleached Australian Noir, albeit one that doffs its Stetson to the western, with Jay Swan filling the role of lone sheriff, hell-bent on cleaning up his corrupt hometown. Racial tension underpins the narrative, and the impressive Pedersen offers a haunted, committed, lead performance.
There is a palpable sense of unease throughout, and the stellar Australian ensemble cast, which includes Hugo Weaving (The Matrix) and Ryan Kwanten (True Blood) offer solid support in ambiguous roles. Not perfect, admittedly – the film drops in enough characters and sub-plots for a mini-series, leading to some head-scratching moments – but Mystery Road is a bleak, evocative thriller that messes with genre tropes to impressive effect. Well worth investigating.