Mystery Road review (London Film Festival)
Touched by dry humor and elegant action, this is a marvelous blend of classic detective noir and modern Outback Western.
I’m “biast” (pro):
I’m “biast” (con): nothing
(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)
Detective Jay Swan is yer basic delicious handsome angsty wounded taciturn cop with a troubled past that’s only hinted who’s only trying to do his job, dammit, except that he’s dogged by suspicions that his probably-corrupt higher-ups are stonewalling him, and then there’s all the personal complications that come from living and working in a small town where everyone knows everyone else and his ex-wife and estranged daughter are there to remind him of his failures in life, which only redouble his resolve to solve that terrible murder of the teenage girl whose body was found out by the highway, and has no one even missed her?, she’s been dead for days. Guys like Jay populate piles of compulsively readable crime-thriller novels series — though not, oddly enough, very many movies, certainly not lately — and there wouldn’t be anything in the least bit notable about him, from a cinematic-storytelling perspective, if he weren’t an Australian Aborigine. But he is, and so this marvelous mystery gets to stir some simmering racial tension into its noirsh mix… and that’s on top of the modern Outback Western vibe writer-director Ivan Sen brings to Jay’s harsh, desolate, sun-drenched world. (It doesn’t hurt, either, that star Aaron Pedersen, a well-known TV actor in Australia, is more than a little bit gorgeous, and his Jay an honest, solid presence you can’t help but want to be in orbit around.) The Gala screening in LFF’s Thrill thread, Mystery Road, touched by dry humor and elegant action, is indeed a thrilling film, all the more so for how spare and quiet it is.
viewed during the 57th BFI London Film Festival