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Mystery Road (2013)

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    Travis Sheldon
    Senior Member

  • Mystery Road



    Released by:
    Well Go USA Ent.
    Released on: October 14th, 2014.
    Director: Ivan Sen
    Cast: Aaron Pedersen, Hugo Weaving, Ryan Kwanten
    Year: 2013
    Purchase From Amazon

    The Movie:

    A girl's body is found in a drainage tunnel below a road in an unnamed town in the Australian outback. Detective Jay Swan (Aaron Pedersen) arrives to investigate the murder. We learn that Swan has recently returned to his native town after a long absence doing police training. A long enough absence for the relationships with his daughter, Crystal (Tricia Whitton), and wife, Mary (Tasma Walton), to have become estranged. Detective Swan's superior, Sarge (Tony Barry), meets Swan's zeal to find the killer with a somewhat lukewarm "Don't rock the boat" attitude. As an Aborigine, Detective Swan is torn between the racist attitudes of the mostly white police force and the Aboriginal citizens of the town.

    Swan learns that the murdered girl had been involved with drugs and was making money from the truckers along the road where she was found. He also discovers that his own daughter was friends with the girl after finding texts and photos on the murdered girl's cellphone. When he questions his daughter, she gives him little information to go on. In fact, Swan gets no help from any of the local people, save for his uncle (Jack Charles). The locals view Swan as a turncoat for joining the police force, who they see as only interested in causing them trouble.

    Swan returns to the crime scene and decides to go to a nearby farmhouse to ask questions of the owner, Sam Bailey (David Field). While there, he sees a young man getting into a hunting truck with a number of dogs in the back. He later sees the young man again and decides to question him. The young man is Pete Bailey (Ryan Kwanten), the son of Sam (Sorry, couldn't resist!). Pete says he is a hunter and a deadly shot with his hunting rifle. Once again, Swan is stonewalled and he leaves.

    The next night he spots a number of men going to a local building, which looks like a meth lab, and watches them through binoculars as they load some packages into a car. But as Swan leaves to follow them he is immediately flagged down by fellow officer Johnno (Hugo Weaving). Johnno is acting erratically and Swan is suspicious of him, but after a few minutes of banter they part and Swan goes home. The next day, Swan follows Johnno as he leaves the precinct and heads to an abandoned lot. There Johnno meets up with Wayne Silverman (Damian Walshe-Howling), who Swan learns has a criminal drug record. Swan goes to Silverman's house to ask him questions, but when Silverman spots him he immediately takes off. Swan catches Silverman and takes him back to the police station for questioning. Silverman confesses that he had stolen a car and found some drugs. The drugs were later stolen from Silverman and now someone is looking for him for payback. Johnno interrupts Swan's interrogation and informs Swan that Silverman is his main informant. Looking for clues, Swan goes to the junkyard where Silverman told him he ditched the stolen car. At the junkyard, Swan finds the body of a girl who had been missing for some time. He goes to the girl's house and finds it ransacked. While there Swan finds the stolen drugs that everyone seems to be looking for. Unsure if he can trust Johnno, Swan phones him to let him know he found the drugs. Swan sets up a meet on Mystery Road. The story culminates in a satisfying flurry of bullets and blood.

    The story unfolds very slowly, so if you're looking for American style murder mystery drama then you will likely be disappointed. While the pacing may lack, it is made up for by the acting skills of the stellar cast which includes some of Australia's finest actors. Pedersen gives off a great air of distrust by just looking over his shoulder in some scenes. Little things like that can add so much more depth to character and add to atmosphere, as well. Look for Bruce Spence (Gyro Captain from Mad Max 2/The Road Warrior) as the local coroner and Jack Thompson (Breaker Morant) as a widower in small, but well acted, bit parts.

    This film does not hold your hand, which I like. Since it seems to me that so many modern movies need to spell everything out to get their point across. Swan's character is not sure if he can trust his police brethren or the locals and the viewer doesn't either. Which is a strength of the script. You may figure out the killer at an early point, but the little details are kept pretty close to the vest.
    This is a dialog driven film. There is little action until the last 15 minutes, with Pedersen driving around quite frequently for seemingly a majority of the runtime .

    This movie was shot entirely on location. The aboriginal folk are shown living in a rundown suburban type ghetto and the local whites seem to all be living on ranches. I'm a big fan of using real locations over sets when it works, which luckily it does with this story.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    The film is encoded AVC in a 2.40:1 A/R and looks clean and crisp. Filmed using the Red camera, the Australian outback looks immaculate. Most of this film takes place during the day, so lots of dust, dirt, and blue sky is presented.

    The DTS-HD 5.1 audio sounds great and dialog was always crystal clear. If you have any problems with understanding the accents there are subtitles. The minimal music score by Cinematographer/Writer/Director Ivan Sen was refreshing. Nothing overbearing with the soundscape, everything fits as it should and does not take you out of the movie.

    Extras include a couple Making Of featurettes, The Story (3:58) and High Profile Cast (4:46). The director, producer, and the actors recount their time making the film. Interviews with the cast runs (20:21). Aaron Pedersen, Hugo Weaving, Ryan Kwanten, Jack Thompson, and Tony Barry share their thoughts on the production. Most of the actors put over Director Ivan Sen, as they all enjoyed working with him. The original trailer is included. As well as a preview gallery for the films: Child of God / American Muscle / Swelter

    The Final Word:

    If the sound of a murder mystery with an Australian cowboy flair is palatable to you, then this film will be a winner for you. A good cast and story help the pacing issues. The gun battle at the end is worth it. By the time everything breaks down you should be sufficiently on edge.


    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!




















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