February 18, 2014

DVD Review- Mystery Road (2014)

We try to stretch our legs and cover other genres as much as we can around here, and when we do, we always try to focus on movies that are as close to our beloved "home" genre as possible.

We're a Horror site; no one comes here to read our take on the new Will Ferrell movie, or to hear what we thought about the new Season of House of Cards, you know?

If that were the case, then we'd be The Movie Club, and ain't nobody got time for that.

We say this because we really wanted to talk about this little Aussie flick we saw recently, called Mystery Road. For our purposes, we're looking at this movie as if it were a Crime Thriller, where in all actuality it's truly more of an Action Western with a tinge of Drama thrown into the mix.

A few years back, we reviewed an Australian flick called Red Hill. In Red Hill, Ryan Kwanten played a rookie Copper who has to protect his small town from an escaped maniac who is out for revenge. We loved the hell out of that flick, and even though it wasn't truly a Horror movie either, we felt compelled to cover it, because sometimes we need some high-end bloodletting in our entertainment lives.

Mystery Road is much like Red Hill in that manner, as it's a Western with tinges of other genres highlighting its darker aspects.

This is going to be a quick one.

When the body of a young girl is found crammed into a tunnel near the small Queensland town of Winton, Detective Jay Swann is called in to investigate. Swann is a Aborigine, which of course means that he's not going to have an easy go of things, even though Winton is his home town; he's an "Abo" to most folk there, which is pretty much the Aussie equivalent of the "N-Word."

"Who you calling Abo, mate?"
As he works the case, he begins to uncover a sordid tale of drugs, teenage prostitution, Police corruption, roo hunting, and illegal Vegemite smuggling, all of which puts him in the crosshairs of some pretty violent criminals. Whose crosshairs are they, specifically? Are the local Police involved in something that needs to be covered up with murder? Is Jason Stackhouse an evil mastermind masquerading as a simple kangaroo sniper?

"I'll snipe your roo, mate."
All we know is that the Aboriginal version of Gary Cooper is on the case, and he's not going to stop until he gets to shoot someone. Or, shoot a bunch of people. Maybe even some dingos.

Australian vengeance ensues.

Just imagine the theme song from "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly" playing as you look at this picture.
For us, Mystery Road played like a Cormac McCarthy story set in the Australian Outback, in that it's minimalistic, poetic, and almost seedy. The movie's plot unfolds in a slow and quiet manner, bringing the tension that underlies everything to a gradual boil, until it eventually explodes in a crazy hail of violence and catharsis.

Director Ivan Sen gives us a movie that not only makes us feel as isolated as its main character surely does, but also captures how truly gorgeous the Australian Outback is. Because of its setting, Mystery Road feels both small and endless at the same time; the small town dynamic unfolding in the middle of the vast expanse of the Australian Outback served to make everything feel so isolated, and at the same time, almost claustrophobic. The whole thing is just moody as hell, and it definitely played with our senses.

He's your Huckleberry.
It's a tense and even grisly movie at times, and it has its share of action later on, but for the most part, Mystery Road is about a loner character, the adversity he faces, and what he goes through to overcome it. Jay Swann is the quiet cowboy who rides into town, and has a shootout with the evil Sheriff; he's the outsider who gets in over his head, but doesn't ever deviate from his mission, despite the danger to himself and the ones he loves; he's the chink in the criminal's armor. 

Most importantly, he's the hero with the white hat.

Considering the themes of racial inequality that populate this movie, that's a bold statement indeed.

"The fuck you just say to me?"
Aaron Pedersen did a great job at playing the brooding and lonely Jay Swann. This was our first experience seeing him in anything, and he definitely impressed us with his quiet, yet menacing performance. 

Hugo Weaving is so good in this movie that it made us wish it was more about him. That's no knock on the movie's plot, or any of its other acting talent, but good Lord he just made the screen crackle whenever he was on it. He really oozes charisma in this movie.

It was also nice to see Ryan Kwanten playing a bad guy for a change. He's good at playing the hero, but we'd love to see him take on more menacing roles like this in the future.

We also have to say that we loved the way that this one ended.

This movie needs a prequel called "The Wrath of Johnno."
Mystery Road is a slick and gritty exercise in subdued atmosphere and blaring themes. It's one hell of an Action Western, and even though most of the movie's action doesn't happen until the third reel, it's an engaging ride none the less. It's worth seeing for many reasons, but it's worth seeing for Weaving and Pedersen's performances alone.

You can get Mystery Road now on DVD (In Australia), or on Itunes. Either option looks like it will cost you $29.99 though, so maybe wait until it's available for rental somewhere at a more reasonable price. *Not trying to be cheap here, but $30 is a lot for most people to drop on a smaller movie that isn't exactly widely known yet.


So it appears that Samara Weaving -who plays Peggy in Mystery Road- is the niece of Hugo Weaving. That Weaving clan sure has some noice genetics going for it.


  1. I just watched 'Mystery Road' on you tube. I typed in the film's title then - movie and clicked. there it was and a pretty good print. I agree with the review; the film is sort of Outback Noir with a new detective following where ever the clues lead him. Pedersen is fine as the hero, Weaving is outstanding and is niece is a sweetie. What especially liked was the cinema photography showing us a place you normally don't see in the movies. Also the lack of any phony action scenes to show us how tough the hero is. It is slow going for the first 90 minutes so those wanting a bloodbath will probably be disappointed. There are also comments and scenes dealing with the racial situation in Australia, some of which went right over my head which did not affect my enjoyment of the movie in any way. The violence is very well choreographed when it comes and the film ends on an ambivalent note - I am going to assume a happy outcome.

  2. Well said, Anon.

    Surprised it was on Youtube, but maybe that's because it already aired on "ABC" in Australia? Nice to see that it's at least it's getting out there for more folks to see.