Title – Mystery Road (2013)
Director – Ivan Sen (Toomelah)
Cast – Aaron Pedersen, Hugo Weaving, Jack Thompson, Ryan Kwanten, David Field, Damian Walshe-Howling, Tasma Walton
Plot – Indigenous detective Jay Swan (Pedersen) returns to his small home town and finds himself investigating the murder of a young aboriginal girl that leads him to question not only suspects in the community but those in his own police department.
“Have you ever killed someone Jay-Boy?”
Review by Eddie on 21/03/2014
Ivan Sen has quietly been going about his movie making business in Australia for over 10 years now with his first feature film Beneath Clouds garnering great critical acclaim in 2002, and his under-seen yet equally acclaimed 2011 film Toomelah delivering one of the better Aboriginal themed movies this country has produced. With his new film Mystery Road, we see Sen developing a bigger project with an even bigger cast and the results, while slightly mixed, showcase that Sen could quite well be one of this country’s brightest directing talents.
Sen is a jack of all trades who again here acts as not only director but composer, cinematographer and editor. It’s a tough task for anyone to juggle all these duties at any given time, but for the majority of the picture Sen succeeds. He captures some beautiful, and in their own unique way haunting images of a dusty barren landscape and a land that seems wholly unforgiving. The film’s pacing however does at times not complement the films structure with proceedings playing out in a pace that could of used a tighter edit and therefore perhaps it would have been a wise move for Sen to have an outsider come in and give it a useful trim, as well as a composer to enhance the musical ambiance. While Sen miscalculated these aspects of the film, he certainly directs some very solid performances in a tale that will keep you watching right through to the end.
In the lead role of understated yet determined aboriginal detective Jay Swan, TV actor Pedersen is a solid centering piece for the movie, a man that clearly knows his way around and can smell a liar a mile off. While Pedersen is a solid lead it’s in the support of the ever amazing Hugo Weaving where the film really strikes gold. Any scene where Weaving’s maniacal eyed cop Johnno is present the film really jumps up a notch and you get the true sense of what this movie could have been with more of these edge of your seat encounters. Other well-known Australian actors such as True Blood’s Ryan Kwanten and David Field pop up in brief yet important roles.
Tying up in a way that for some reason feels like a cop out, Mystery Road is however a very enjoyable and impressively made Australian murder mystery that has enough qualities to find an audience overseas. With this effort and his previous films one gets the feeling the Sen is not far off from making an undisputed and successful Australian classic.
3 lonesome dusty roads out of 5