Mystery Road

Susan and I watched this on TV (video on demand) as it ticked a couple of boxes – crime drama, Australian setting, decent synopsis – and had mixed opinions. It’s not a must see, but offers an authentic looking view of a part of Australian society that does not get enough attention, and definitely has its moments. For example, the film’s climax – albeit it was a long time coming – was a sharp piece of action cinema.

The back story is straightforward: an indigenous (read ‘aboriginal’) policeman returns home and is thrown in to the investigation of the murder of a young aboriginal girl. He is surrounded by a white male police force that cares little for such victims, and an aboriginal community that doesn’t trust him because he is a policeman. And, to complicate matters, his ex-wife (now a domestic violence victim courtesy of her new partner) and daughter are in the picture. His daughter knew the victim and may know more than she is saying. His ex-wife drinks and condemns him in equal measure.

Our noble detective tries to do his job, even if one of his fellow policemen was mysteriously killed a short time before his return, and another colleague seems to be warning him off.

It’s a dark, dusty, dangerous world on the fringes of Australian society.

The major strike against the film is that the director was so intent on building the backdrop (excellent) and atmosphere (equally good) he forgot he had a story to tell. In other words, it’s too long. At two hours, by my reckoning it’s half an hour longer than it needs to be. If you can spare the time, you may be better disposed to the movie.

The lead role is played by Aaron Pedersen, and he does it well. Hugo Weaving is on auto pilot, but still has that edge of threat that will forever follow him around since his Matrix role. The rest of the cast are fine, but with no stand outs.

There are some raw edges to the movie and, be warned, some loose ends. But that, I suspect, is deliberate, as it’s part of the ambiance the director is trying to let you experience. It’s worth seeing, if only to get a glimpse of a whole world away from Hollywood.