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Really effective Queensland mystery
Red-Barracuda24 February 2014
A detective from a small outback settlement investigates the murder of an Aboriginal girl whose body has been found in a drain under the highway in the outskirts of town. His investigations soon reveal many dark secrets that underpin the town.

A couple of things in particular make this film really successful. Firstly, it has a compelling and deliberately developed mystery plot-line that slowly reveals its secrets; secondly, its Queensland outback location is wonderfully used to add atmosphere and depth. The Australian outback is really a very cinematic landscape, its sheer expanse and seeming endlessness can look great in a widescreen frame and the cinematography in Mystery Road shows again why. The shots of the landscape are often very beautiful. This contrasts quite jarringly with the small country town, which is entirely functional, with no beauty. We really feel the heat as well. This leads to a slowed down pace and a laid-back feel, very much in keeping with Australian life in general. This extends to the slow and deliberate way that the story-line unfolds before us.

The film looks at a few social issues that underpin the mystery story-line such as race relations, prostitution, police corruption and drug abuse. By the end, it would only be fair to say that all of the questions posed by the mystery have not been neatly answered. If anything, this works in the film's favour though as it makes you ponder events even more afterwards. What also helps is that the acting by the entire cast is very good. From the smallest support roles to the lead actors, everyone is excellent. Aaron Pederson in the lead role is particularly impressive. His measured and quiet persona is just the right tone and in keeping with the overall authenticity of proceedings. This is a film almost solely concerned with mystery mechanics at the expense of thriller elements. This, however, changes at the end where we are treated to one of the best shootouts you will see in any film. In keeping with the rest of the movie, this is a gun fight that retains its realism. It's because of this it's so interesting. It's messy and far removed from typical action movie shootouts; consequently it's far more effective. Of especial note are the long distance duels, where the delay between shots are so unusual and add considerable tension. It's an inspired ending to a very good Australian film.
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A very good film with superb cinematography
roger-pettit111 October 2013
"Mystery Road" is a thriller (with film noir overtones) and a western rolled into one. It examines race relations in modern-day Australia, in particular those between the indigenous Aboriginal population and those Australians of European descent. It does so through the eyes of Aboriginal detective Joe Swan (Aaron Pedersen), who returns after a period of 10 years away to the remote small Australian town in which his daughter Crystal (Tricia Whitton) and her mother - Swan's estranged wife, Mary (Tasma Walton) - live. Swan is immediately thrown into the investigation of the murder of a teenage Aboriginal girl, whose body has been discovered in the outskirts of the town. His investigations soon yield a great deal of uncomfortable information, including police corruption, sexual exploitation and the possible involvement in the crime of his ex-wife and daughter (as well as sundry other local residents). The laconic detective has to contend with a complete lack of co-operation from his police colleagues and from the town's residents, who view any form of authority with suspicion and utter disdain. It all leads to a closing shoot-out sequence that is, for once, realistic and which is beautifully filmed. Indeed, one of the film's many strong points is its direction (by screenplay writer Ivan Sen). The cinematography (for which Sen is also responsible) is amazingly good - just about the best I have seen in any film. The cast too are terrific, particularly Pedersen and Hugo Weaving (who plays Johnno, a possibly corrupt white police colleague of Swan's). The only aspect of the film about which I have reservations is the plot, which does not seem to me to hang together. I may have missed something but there appear to be unexplained gaps in parts of the story. Other than that, "Mystery Road", which starts slowly before gradually building up to its dramatic conclusion, is an almost faultless film - and is certainly one that is worth looking out for. 8/10.
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A modern Twist of the Western Genre
TimMeade17 October 2013
There is much to commend in this outback-set crime drama from director, writer and cinematographer, Ivan Sen.

The first scene sets up the whole film most deftly: its depiction of the magnitude of the land at sunset coupled with the place name, Massacre Creek, instantly makes it clear that the vastness of the Australian terrain and inglorious, largely unrepented historic events will frame what follows.

Aaron Pedersen plays the police detective Jay Swan, an Aboriginal returning from 'the city' to his small and extremely isolated home town after a 10 year absence. He is estranged from his former wife, now an alcoholic making a hash of raising their daughter, and also the community in which he was raised. Not fully accepted by the white community either, he is the classic outsider forced to go it alone.

Swan is assigned to the case of a murdered Aboriginal teenage girl whose body is found in a state of some decay quite some time after her violent end. It probably won't come as a great shock to find that the rest of the local constabulary, all white and male, are not only indifferent to the crime but hostile to its investigation, impeding Swan at every juncture. As Swan battles on uncovering corruption, drug dealing and civic sanctioned child prostitution, he starts to shed light on the town's inherent racism and misogyny – there appears to be no one in the town of any authority who is either black or female.

The film is a modern twist on the western genre: the lone lawman coming to town quietly determined to see right is done. It is the sort of role Gary Cooper, John Wayne and Jimmy Stewart all handled with ease 60 years ago. Aaron Pedersen is a worthy successor to these Hollywood greats, compelling in his restrained performance, giving just a hint of the angst beneath his calm exterior but always in control of himself. In the main, the supporting cast is also strong – especially Hugo Weaving as a police officer of dubious integrity and an alluded to murky past.

Like all classic westerns the film's denouement is a good old-fashioned shoot-out. This extended scene is particularly well handled by Sen with tight direction and camera work – although his cinematography throughout the film is praiseworthy.

The film has a few flaws. Early scene dialogue giving the backstory is rather stilted – though this quickly settled down; the minor character of a buffoonish local newspaper reporter was both unconvincing and irrelevant – it was as if Sen felt, wrongly, that his film needed a little comic relief. And I was surprised at the amount of drugs uncovered in such a very small town. I'm no expert but I'd have thought the quantity shown would be enough to supply the whole of Melbourne – including its nearby rock festivals – for a year.

Ultimately, many of the film's plot strands were left hanging which was, ostensibly, rather untidy. But on this, I'm giving Ivan Sen the benefit of the doubt. There was no neat resolution to his film or the crimes it depicts, because there is, as yet, no resolution to the social issues he raised in a non-preachy manner.
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Coming home to find things this messed up what choice would you have.
face-819-93372618 February 2014
Warning: Spoilers
It would be easy to just say that this is Australia's answer to No Country For Old Men, but that would be selling this movie short. Yes there are similarities in the showdowns, and the fact that both are acted beautifully, and honestly without pretension, or over dramatization. You just get the raw story here, and it is really good. Race is an issue in the story, but it is not the focus, nor is it essential, It would be an outsider coming home no matter who he was, or where the story was set. I like to come into most movies completely blind, and always hope for the best result, you must like to know more, or you wouldn't be reading this. Then it's the goods you seek, then here they are. I really Enjoyed this movie, the acting is all excellent, from the youngest to the oldest everyone held their own, the story is so very deep, and layered, and ends in the only way that it could. I recommend this movie to anyone who likes a good dramatic story with a lot of the mystery left for you, and the main character to discover together, you get this dealt out exceptionally well in fact. The beauty of the Australian Outback, with a great 3 way Sniper shootout that was inevitable Ryan Kwanten playing a villain is a nice extra treat as well.

Jesse of
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The usual suspects will dislike this film for the usual reasons.
diane-343 February 2014
Diane and I watched this under rated beaut on TV several nights ago; I was totally absorbed in the film. Sure, all the aspects of film that upset people will be trundled out to smear this movie but pay no attention to them; pay attention to the marvellous script that uses minor plots to magnify the larger story. Of course anytime you try to make an action film using indigenous actors in main roles you will have naysayers degrading the film for using stereotypes but disregard these comments I found the film very interesting with no dull patches at all. The script was well done and the actors doing their roles to the best as far as I was concerned. The collection of actors both male and female, Anglo and Indigenous were superb. I think that another role played but receiving no credit was the remarkable landscape where the movie was filmed. The dryness of the small town was palpable after watching only the first sections; it was as if a bad metaphor had been dropped into the film but the burnt scenery eventually took on more than just a palate upon which the film was acted out.

I love our films and this one was no exception; there was a palpable sense of doom that was going to catch these people and that doom could not be reconciled. It would need to be played out.
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Another Intriguing Australian Outback Film
PStyles16 October 2014
I must say that I am fascinated by the Australian outback, so this movie immediately had my attention. There have been many good Australian films to come out in recent years(The Proposition, Animal Kingdom, and Snowtown come to mind) and Mystery Road is another quality film to add to that list. With some unbelievable cinematography and good to very good acting throughout, Mystery Road was an inherently different take on the mystery genre that I quite enjoyed.

The overall tone of Mystery Road is what sets it apart from other movies of similar type. From the camera shots all the way down to the dialogue, everything is depicted with realism. There is a real awkwardness to the conversations between characters in this movie, almost like you would see in real life. While obviously still scripted, the way Ivan Sen went about depicting these scenes made for a unique perspective. From cinematographic standpoint, this film is stunning. Utilizing both top down angles of the town and low-angled sunset shots, Sen really brought the outback to life quite beautifully. This film really reminds me of the Coen Brother's No Country for Old Men, both in tone and the way the scenes were shot. Also like No Country for Old Men, Mystery Road features a soundtrack nearly devoid of music. This adds a somber, gritty feel to the already stoic nature Mystery Road portrays.

The acting in this movie is pretty fantastic throughout. Some of the supporting characters weren't as convincing, but they played a rather minor role in the overall scheme of things. This movie focuses heavily on the main character, and rightfully so, as he's a total bad-ass. You can read the synopsis above so I won't waste time here. I must say, however, that Jay Swan(played by Aaron Pedersen) is pretty enjoyable to follow as he attempts to unravel the mystery of a dead girl in his hometown. Mystery Road shines a spotlight on race relations in Australia as well, and with Jay being an aboriginal detective, he faces a lot of adversity throughout the film. It is interesting to see this as an American, since we are not often exposed to such things that happen in Australia. There always seems to be a layer of tension below the courtesy between Jay and his fellow townsmen, either due to him being an aboriginal himself or because he is a detective.

Now to the negatives, which there are a few. First, this movie starts out quite slow. I almost gave up on it as I fell asleep twice in the first 40 minutes. Had it not been for the fantastic shots of the outback and a few intriguing individuals, I may not have made it through. Things begin to pick up around the halfway mark but this will most definitely turn some people off. There are also a few plot holes, but I won't give them away as they may ruin some of the ending. Many of the characters are sadly under-developed as well, which detracts from the overall intrigue of some very interesting individuals. While Hugo Weaving was quite good and his character interesting, he role was particularly undeveloped in my humble opinion. Instead, Sen decided to focus more on Jay, which is OK for the most part, but it would have been nice to see some other characters get more screen time.

Overall, this movie offers some fantastic shots of the rural outback of Australia with an interesting plot to boot. Things do start off slow but it also, quite literally, ends with a bang. This ending is not one to miss, and has one of the most impressive gun battles I have seen perhaps ever. If you are a fan of gritty mystery movies, definitely check out Mystery Road.
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This movie managed to hook me in the first minutes.
irishsounds25 February 2015
Why was I immediately sold on this movie? Within minutes I was hooked, and stayed with it 100% right through. That, in my case, is an immediate plus point for any movie.

So how did it get me? I guess because it struck me as believable - the characters, the places, the story. Having visited the edge of the Auz outback I fully related to the backgrounds and the characters. The texture and feel of the presentation struck me as the genuine article. I have said it before about top quality film directing - that the feel was more like a documentary with real people and not actors.

The acting was excellent but not of a fine silken quality or in any way slick. Rather the characters were raw and gritty, which could explain some review comments suggesting wooden or poor acting.

This movie felt like a fly on the wall view of the hard side of a tough life in the Australian outback, replete with huge social problems, racism, and defeated and depressed people tying to survive while drugs and crime were eating into the life of the area.

As depressing as was the setting, funny enough, I was not in the least depressed by the movie. There was a strong ethical line and I felt throughout that good would make it in the end.

This is a great movie without any big name actors, without fancy settings, without a great musical score, without great special effects, without bells or whistles of any description. It is totally minimalist art. It's greatness is in the excellent direction, the acting, the cinematography, and a decent enough plot.
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bridon-792-52863515 September 2013
As usual with most Australian films, the story line is very different. The casualness of the style with the weight of the film being presented by the vision, missed telling me what was happening a couple of times. Left the cinema still answering the questions asked. Did feel I needed a bit more in the way of answers given to me though. Acting was excellent , very quickly lost my expectation of known characters roles & embraced the new story rapidly. The structure of town, people & their lives were simply & beautifully presented. The use of aerials helped cement characters & culture of small outback town wonderfully, as did the simple style of presenting different cultural landscapes within the one time. Great movie, will be watching again
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Mystery Road - More than just a Peckinpah Tribute film
raiderhayseed20 October 2013
Warning: Spoilers
"Cactus" is a film set in outback Australia with excellent actors, impressive cinematography and insufficient tension to sustain its sparse and obscure narrative over the course of its running time. I've been noticing that malady afflicting US television series such as "Dome" of late. No tension - no viewer involvement. No viewer involvement - an unsatisfying, empty experience. Tension. That's the sort of thing the English playwright, Harold Pinter could deliver in bucket loads with just a few characters and claustrophobically small settings in his early plays, such as "The Birthday Party"

"Mystery Road" is not edge of the seat, scary movie stuff either, but it involves the viewers intellect and emotions by allowing them to share in the aboriginal detective hero's quest as he works out how and why an Aboriginal teenage girl has been murdered. It seems a car containing drugs produced at the local drug laboratory has been stolen. Elements of the local police force have a "relationship" with the drug lab proprietors. A bikie gang also seems to be involved. The thief is a local drug dealer/police informer who is owed "favors" by some of the wilder, young, local aboriginal girls. He has arranged with one of them to hold the drugs for him until the fuss over their "disappearance" has died down. But which girl? It seems the likely suspects are being murdered with a view to scaring the girl with the drugs into returning them and facing the consequences. The hero detective finally discovers the whereabouts of the drugs, and the identity of the girl who has hidden them. He realizes the only solution is to return the drugs himself. The murderous lack of gratitude of their 'rightful' owners leads to the brilliantly staged final shootout.

The discovery of what has happened to the drugs involves digging through the layers of different cultural milieus involved in their disappearance. In the process it says much about how those different milieus usually co-exist and what happens when they collide with each other. It is that collision that culminate in a shoot out worthy of a Sam Peckinpah movie at the end of the film. But this is no cheap and vulgar genre knock off

The cinematography seems to emerge from the paintings of Russell Drysdale. The final shoot out could be an updating of Tom Roberts' painting, 'In a corner on the Macintyre' 1895. Up there on the big screen for all to see is the undeniably horrible Australian architectural ugliness of a country town. This aesthetic hell hole of prefabricated housing has been plonked down in starkly beautiful, aeons old, dry and dusty countryside. The overhead shots of the town that recur throughout the film frame this ugliness in all its intellectually, emotionally and spiritually deprived, "Wasteland" emptiness.

The actors are drawn from the cream of Australian screen thespians. Aaron Pedersen delivers a thoughtful and quietly compelling performance as the hero detective. The other actors have done their time on quality Australian crime mini series such as Underbelly (as well as the usual breakfast cereal advertisements). The ethnic make up of the Australian population has undergone a dramatic change in the last fifty years, but these actors depict the pre-1970's White Australia Policy Eurocentric Australia that can still be found in country towns ( even those with Chinese restaurants) as authentically as any you will ever see.

The script, and that is where the necessary tension has its genesis, is so much better than the usual fare that makes its way to the screen. It has the authority and presence to deliver a riveting story, but poses an underlying question in a quietly understated but compelling manner.

That question is, "How much worse could things be if all drug taking was decriminalized? "

The film depicts the corruption that the unworkable drug laws have wrought among police forces around the world. The film depicts the hopelessness of people being turned into criminals merely because they turn to drug abuse to relieve the boredom of their empty lives. The film depicts the easy money available to psychopaths, sociopaths and plain, old fashioned lawless thugs who can gain instant riches from flouting the unworkable drug laws.

I was underwhelmed by director Ivan Sen's, "Beneath Clouds", but this effort marks him out as an undeniably gifted film maker. If the film, "Chopper" could galvanize the Hollywood money guys into putting Andrew Dominik and Eric Banna onto their "A" lists, "Mystery Road" should do the same for director Ivan Sen and lead actor Aaron Pedersen
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Not perfect but much to recommend
Leofwine_draca2 March 2015
MYSTERY ROAD is another atmospheric, well-made and well-acted Australian movie that contains bags more style and atmosphere than many a bigger-budgeted Hollywood movie. This one's set in the much-ignored Aboriginal community and a kind of poverty-row slum that will be familiar to anybody who's sat through the gruelling SNOWTOWN.

Thankfully, MYSTERY ROAD isn't anywhere near as grim as that movie, although it is a murder mystery in which young Aboriginal girls are being found with their throats slit, their bodies having been partially eaten by wild dogs. Rogue cop Aaron Pedersen is on the case, and he predictably comes up against the usual racism and conspiracies in his bid to discover the truth behind the murders.

The film as a whole has a compelling vibe and despite being slow-paced it's completely engrossing. The low-tech nature of the production gives it a naturalistic feel and the performances are excellent, particularly from the bigger names like Hugo Weaving (THE MATRIX), Damian Walshe-Howling (THE REEF), Bruce Spence (MAD MAX 2: THE ROAD WARRIOR), and Ryan Kwanten (RED HILL) who all give subdued, authentic turns.

My only real complaint is that there are so many sub-plots here that half of them don't get tied up, leaving too many loose ends at the climax. Still, the film-makers make up for this by staging a lengthy, action-packed climax that's one of the most nail-biting, realistic, and gripping that I've seen in a while.
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Aaron Pedersen's Moment to Shin
rrcharpe28 January 2014
Warning: Spoilers
The Australian full length movie "Mystery Road" is one of those flicks where about 1/4 of the way through it a person begins to realize that they are watching an exceptional actor who was well cast in the roll of a police department detective in a city that had serious drug problems and gang related violence, mixed in with crimes against young women. Pedersen is a veteran of TV police dramas in Australia and he carries a heroic but quiet persona onto the big screen that is a perfect fit for this interesting and very well made murder mystery. Not once did I feel any sense of disbelief in the way he worked his way into the crime investigation he has been given by the chief of his police department. Additionally, I felt it showed a realistic slice of modern Australian youth, many of whom have turned to drug use with a vengeance with the inevitable consequences of youthful addiction. I give very few "10's" to any movie I review and this one deserved every shining star. Sit back and let the wonderful acting of Aaron Pedersen turn your viewing time into an experience to remember. This guy is a "great actor" and I am looking forward to his next big screen role. StocktonRob
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Going' Down the Road
sol-8 December 2017
Investigating the brutal murder of an Indigenous teenage girl in rural Australia, an Indigenous cop begins to question whether drugs, police corruption and other factors may have contributed in this thriller from 'Beneath Clouds' director Ivan Sen. As per 'Beneath Clouds', Sen litters his film is beautiful landscape shots. The twilight/dusk opening scene is especially striking with many moody colours blended in. The vast majority of 'Mystery Road' occurs in the daylight though with a few too many indoor shots. The film is very slow paced too with little sense of urgency or even danger as the protagonist probes deeper into the death. Interesting ideas abound as the detective begins to suspect that his own estranged teen daughter may have been mixed up with the murder victim and his scenes with her are among the most touching moments in the movie. 'Mystery Road' never makes up its mind though whether it wants to be an estranged father/daughter tale, a tale of an Indigenous cop overcoming prejudice, a tale of mistreatment of Indigenous youths or a tale of the corrupting influence of drugs. This in turn makes it difficult for the film to leave much of an impact. Lead actor Aaron Pedersen certainly tries his best to make the most of the material though - and he is helped out by a talented supporting cast - but one's mileage with the movie may well vary.
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Gorgeous Cinematography, Superb Acting, Overall Class Film
foolishcop-589-14747720 December 2014
The negative reviews baffled me and the positive ones can't do Mystery Road enough justice.

From the opening until the dramatic end, the movie is a captivating tour de force. Coming from the U.S. I'm completely ignorant of the racial biases apparently at play in the Australian Outback, and this film subtly puts them on display without having them become overbearing or preachy.

The acting is tops and Aaron Pederson does his subject well, playing him with confidence and understatement. Hugo Weaving's turn as Johnno is also a well-crafted part, not to mention all of the minor roles, all of which came across as completely believable. It's easy to say the Australian landscape had just as large a role as any of the cast, and it read its lines perfectly.

Although there were a few parts where I found it difficult to understand what was said as a result of the local accent, there was no missing the message that was delivered. Again, from beginning to end the movie hit all the right notes, and even its climatic ending delivered a superbly satisfying denouement to the whole.

I've come to appreciate films not produced in the U.S. because they all too often are so formulaic with shallowly cast characters. Mystery Road represents among the best of what I look for in a movie produced anywhere and is tops among such "foreign" films. It is definitely one to catch.
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Still a Mystery to Me
thesar-221 July 2020
Huh! I just watched this new-to-me Australian Outback Neo-Western last night all the way through - it's a long and slow one - and never knew it preceded another new-to-me Australian Outback Neo-Western I discovered a few days ago also out of the blue online: Goldstone.

Now, I thoroughly liked Goldstone way better, and now I'm curious to revisit that one since I'm aware it's a sequel to this film. I really liked this main actor and character in both.

Admittedly, both films featuring (the GORGEOUS) Aaron Pedersen as Detective Jay Swan are incredibly slow, this one really made me feel it. Like this one was tough. Doesn't mean it wasn't good with solid acting, beautiful cinematography and sets, along with those dang Australian Outback flies again, though not as prominent here.

It's just, this time I was a whole helluva lost for the most part. It felt like they did, indeed, have a Mystery for Jay to solve, but it keep going in so many crime-filled directions, I never, ever - in fact - find out the bad guy's overall M.O. That might be just me, so you can watch this and make up your own mind. Or just get it. Frankly, I loved the feel of this movie and surroundings and the intrigue of following Jay around everywhere, I just went along for the ride.

Since few words are spoken by Jay and less understandable ones without captions on from his supporting cast, the background is questionable. Apparently, this Detective left this desert-dirt-n-drugs town in the middle of Nowhere, Outback, to work in the big city, leaving his alcoholic ex-wife and child behind. He's been gone for so long, by the time he mistakenly decides to move back "home," people have turned away from him. In all aspects.

Regardless, a truck driver coincidentally finds a dead teen girl under a highway overpass crossing and Detective Jay's on the case. Oddly alone, but he's always promised help. For the next two hours, he peels back the onion layers on the case and town. This man, again of few words, is as mesmerizing as he is good looking, so that helps since you will stay with him ALL THE WAY 'til the end...of this Mystery Road. I don't even recall more than two shots not featuring him.

I guess, knowing now that there were two movies featuring Jay, I can recommend both as a double-feature night. But, best to start early as both are deliberately slow paced. At least they saved the best of the two for last.


Final thoughts: I guess there was a TV series based on this movie and I might watch someday, if it's available. I just now wanna re-watch Goldstone again as I loved it so much and since I know who that Mystery Detective featured in that film is.

Update: I just rewatched Goldstone. I originally gave it 4½/5 stars and now I'm surprised I didn't give it 5/5. If you watch Mystery Road first and then Goldstone, you'll see probably one of the biggest transformations of a character from original to sequel in history. Know his background, know where he came from in the original movie and then see him here, in Goldstone, the sequel and the weight of what he became, what he endured with his daughter...and this sequel, Goldstone becomes a near masterpiece. But, again, it must be watched with Mystery Road. So, I DO recommend a double feature. Funny, tho: Mystery Road is available on Prime while Goldstone is available on Netflix. Hope you have both because they're both worth the journey.
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Really interesting entertainment!
Blazs918 October 2014
This film was a pleasant surprise for me among the mass of today's Hollywood productions. The movie is a bit different in its rhythm and mood from as we are expected from its genre. It tries to combine the western and the thriller style, and I think it has succeeded.

The movie narrates a story of a lonely detective who tries to hunt down the murderer of a young girl in the remote and sparsely inhabited territory of Australia. But the movie is intended to be real, and makes a great effort in order to achieve that. It tries to show us the everyday life of a lonesome ranger in a realistic way. Thus, it could give us a totally different picture than the Hollywood action-stuffed blockbusters can provide.

We can hardly see a single gun in use throughout the whole movie, but somehow it manages to attract the attention of the audience. The newer and newer details of the crime are revealed in a nicely right pace. Sometimes, during the interrogation of a person I've already known what the detective's following question would be. But not the teeming clichés are responsible for that (because there were any), but the adequate atmosphere what the movie could have created, because it's able to involve the audience and encourage them to investigate along with the protagonist.

At the beginning I felt the fact a bit weird, that almost every single member of the town were totally unfriendly with the detective, even a few years old tiny kid, who was brave enough to announce without batting an eyelid that he'd take the detective's life. But later I realized, that I wouldn't be really happy too, if a ranger wanted to ask me a few question about a murder. However, not only these people were raw to the protagonist, but the other policeman were pretty arrogant either. We can feel the tension in almost every moment of an interrogation, because the conversations are usually interrupted with awkward silence, because the detective could hardly pull out the valuable information out of the people. That's why the dialgoues are occasionally a bit silly, but there are some moments when they're quite funky and gripping.

Nevertheless, the actors did a fine job, as far as some of them had only little opportunity to prevail on the silver screen. I admit, that it wasn't Hugo Weaving's most outstanding performance, as we could see him acting far better in the Matrix or in The Lord of the Rings. But I couldn't blame him for that, because his character was really obnoxious in this movie. I could have accused him at his first appearance on the screen, like almost any other people in the movie, except the protagonist.

We can hardly hear any music or soundtrack throughout the movie (only one or two), but it simply draws benefits from that, because the movie could create a much more depressing atmosphere int hat way. The film could perfectly visualize in front of our eyes, that the detectives don't have as fast-paced life as we could experience that in the high- budget Hollywood movie, but they are much slower, tedious, tiresome and difficult. The film owns a nearly 2 hours long runtime, thanks to the fact in part, that it has taken up the conventional towed style of the western genre. There are some moment, when we could see the characters looking at each for a quite long time period without moving or saying a word. But it had to be like this! So no worries!

If You'd like to experience a life-like investigation in a realistically implemented environment in the company of a logically built up storyline, than I can bravely recommend You this movie! Buti f You wanna see some action scenes speeding by right after other, and You don't wanna get slowed down, then this movie will not be your cup of tea.

Thanks for spending your precious free time with reading my review! Hope you liked it!
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Non-Aussies might want to watch this one with the captions on or while viewing with an Aussie friend.
planktonrules17 January 2015
My daughter suggested we see this film together. She told me she'd seen it and liked it but also felt like it might make more sense if she saw it again--and on a TV with captions instead of in the theater. This is because this Australian film is set in a very rural portion of Queensland, Australia and the language is very different for us. In other words, while they're speaking English, there are a lot of colloquial words and phrases she just didn't understand the first time she saw it and a few of the accents were a bit thick. I couldn't help her that much even though I spent a few weeks in Australia--this certainly didn't make me an expert on the country. Plus, all the time I was there I was in the much more cosmopolitan portions of New South Wales and Victoria. So for folks like us Americans, the film might pose a few challenges. My advice is still watch it--but try to bring along an Australian friend to help you understand everything that is occurring. Additionally, I should point out that the film is, at times, deliberately vague.

The story is about a detective investigating the murder of a young Aboriginal girl. He is himself half Aboriginal and you get the impression that this is really important in the film--but exactly how is, again, something that might help to understand if you have Australians sitting with you watching. What exactly happened to the girl is difficult, as there aren't a lot of apparent clues. And when the big confrontation at the end occurs, you STILL aren't sure who is who (especially Hugo Weaving's character). Worth seeing but confusing and worth repeated views because of this.
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Itself a Mystery
samkan29 January 2015
Warning: Spoilers
I enjoyed this film as much as most of the other COMMENTERS herein. And like many of my fellow critics, I take issue with some of MYSTERY ROAD's untied plot issues. Maybe greater issue as I was disappointed at the movie's end. ADVISORY: Read no further if you're yet to watch as MYSTERY ROAD is indeed intriguing. This film is moody and interesting enough that it overcomes it's faults. But, and I'll be brutally specific: The attempt at depicting racial strife, injustice, etc., is ham-handed enough to approach gratuitousness. The "wild dog" subplot is by far the best storyline yet fades away. I''m guessing the druggies raised the mutts to protect their trade and killed the girls for canine feed. Finally -and almost irritating- is Johnno helping our hero by picking off bad guys and, if so, why? MYSTERY ROAD deserves far more than it's OK Corral ending. Whew, I'll sure take a lot of heat for this review!
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Superb Australian Movie
nowego5 June 2018
As an Australian I am proud to say this is an Australian movie and one that does Australia proud.

I have long been a fan of Aaron Pedersen, one of the best Aboriginal actors Australia has produced and there have been some really fine Aboriginal actors in the past, most of whom, happily are still going round. He has been in many TV shows with either bit parts or in some cases longer roles. My favourite would be the Jack Irish movies and TV Show.

He has proven he can act and it shows throughout this movie. Throw in Hugo Weaving, Jack Thompson, Bruce Spence, Tasma Walton and Jack Charles and you have to get a good result.

A great story and really good cinematography all help to make a really interesting, attention holding movie. One that needs to be watched more than once to really take in.

Highly recommended.

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"When time has its way with you,not even your dreams can bring it back."
morrison-dylan-fan5 January 2017
Warning: Spoilers
After watching the superb "ripped from the headlines" Aussie Noir mini-series Deep Water recently,I read reviews by a fellow IMDber. Nearing the end of a page,I noticed a tantalising Aussie Noir title.Finding the name of the flick familiar,I found out that it was about to air on TV! Which led to me going down the mystery road.

The plot:

Returning to his old small town where his ex-wife and daughter live, aboriginal Detective Jay Swan is sent to investigate the body of an aboriginal teenage girl found at an "unofficial pit-stop." Learning that her name was Julie Mason,Swan finds out that Mason was an addict,who was a hooker that had sex with truckers at the stop. Searching for info from Mason's pals,Swan tracks down her phone,and finds messages from his daughter. Whilst trying to find out what his daughter is caught up in,Swan begins to notice that a number of his fellow officers appear very keen in stopping from going down a road that gets to the heart of the case,and the town.

View on the film:

Retaining the way he could give a calm situation an underlying sense of menace in the first Matrix flick, Hugo Weaving gives a chilling performance as cop Johnno,whose "friendly" small-talk and shoulder taps to Swan crackle with a sinister unease,whilst Ryan Kwanten (minus his fake Deep South accent from True Blood) gives a creepy performance as Pete Bailey,with Kwanten using space to open the uncomfortable mood between Bailey and Swan. Gliding in wearing cowboy boots and hat, Aaron Pedersen gives a marvellous performance as lone Noir "cowboy" Jay Swan,as Pedersen gives Swan a Noir gravitas over the horrific treatment of fellow aboriginals,with a rebellious kick to clear the town of all the outlaws standing on the road.

Stroking the brittle Noir tension with coiled crane shots scanning the decayed wilderness for figures wanting Swan to not uncover the full mystery,writer/director/editor/cinematographer/composer Ivan Sen breaths unrelenting dread into the landscape,with lingering looks at Swan's face displaying the shot of anxiety cast across his face,as Swan finds himself a Noir loner in a town that wants to keep its mystery.

Hitting Swan with bullets of racism,the screenplay by Sen exposes the mistreatment of aboriginals in its rawest form,where people who live in run-down housing projects are treated like dirt,and Swan's aboriginal roots are mercilessly leaned on for threats. Pulling Mason's body from the roadside,Swan drives down a cracking Noir mystery Thriller. Limiting the violence to short rounds of bloodshed,Sen brilliantly uses the scorching hot setting to give the dialogue a heaviness that is pulled by the murky underbelly that Swan finds under the mystery road.
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Brilliant lone detective work **plot explanation follows for clarity**
shane118117 September 2020
Warning: Spoilers
I've seen this film twice and I will admit that the first time I didn't really get it. I still enjoyed it because of what everyone else loved about it: the acting, landscapes, the social commentary, and the intimate view of the Outback and it's terribly sad institutional racism. Those elements are incredible. But I had a hard time following the plot. The actors emotions are so subdued for what I'm used to in American productions. I'm not sure I realized Jay was talking to Julie's mother at the notification in the beginning of the movie because she barely looked emotive at all (just high). Also, there is little to no expository dialogue telling you what just happened or what they are going to do next or what something means so you have to watch closely. Also, I kinda thought most everyone talked in riddles and around what they really meant - maybe that's a cultural thing? - so that took some getting use to.

Second time around I put on the CC subtitles and made sure to rewind anything I needed to see twice and I can now say that this is an incredibly logical film with every side plot resolved at the end. There is a lot that isn't said, but is shown on screen if you're looking closely. Incredibly closely! I really had to sharpen my eagle eye!

Don't read ahead if you haven't seen the movie yet or want to try to figure it out yourself.

**Spoiler alert** PLOT EXPLAINED The lone Aboriginal copper Jay, who isn't trusted or respected by almost anyone in his hometown because he works for the institutionally-racist police dept, saves his daughter's life (and solves the double murder!) by finding the previously-stolen, massive stash of drugs at the first murdered girl's house. He tells the dealers (through Johnno using his snitch) that he'll give them the drugs on top of Slaughter Hill on Mystery Road. Even though he keeps up his end of the bargain and doesn't bring any backup, the drug dealers make sure Pete the skilled hunter is stationed at a good lookout far away where he can kill Jay after the handoff (remember he bragged earlier to Jay in the movie that he can make a headshot at 1000 ft). Jay just barely manages to escape the assasination attempt after he kills all of the bad guys because Johnno showed up on a different overlook with his rifle for backup (I have to admit that I wasn't sure which side Johnno was on the whole movie until that point!) and because Jay is an incredible shot!

See the three young girls (one is Jay's daughter) stole the "brown sugar" gear (drugs) from Johnno's "best informant" after he accidentally recovered them in a stolen vehicle (the old "Merc"). The bad (white) guys-who have the "kitchen" on the edge of town and drive an "old Statesman" car-want their drugs back and he doesn't know where they are, so he starts giving them the names of the girls, and those girls end up dead one at a time. First Julie, then Tarnie by the burned out "Merc" (the one Jay talks to and becomes upset to learn is friends with his daughter early in the movie). Obviously when Jay's ex-wife's house is trashed, it's the drug dealers narrowing their search to the last of the three girls (remember how the neighbor confirms the guys came in an "old Statesman"). Jay follows the dealers from the kitchen he identified earlier in the movie out to a handoff where Johnno sees him and intervenes to take Jay to eat, but really to tell him if he doesn't find the drugs then the dealers will go after his daughter next. I'm not sure if it's pure luck that Jay finds the stash at Julies house in the TV after he returns to the house a second time or if he's brilliant, but I thought he exhibits some pretty killer detective work from start to finish in this movie. He always followed the evidence, not hunchs or intuition. I really respected that about him. I also loved how he deals with people to question/communicate what he needs in a non-threatening way ... whether that's offering money, appealing to their vanity, being a true friend ... and all while being super subtle about it all. I think that only comes from having grown up in that town having to carefully navigate the racism and unfairness of it all without losing his temper or taking to drink/drugs like most of the other indigenous have ... his wife suggests at one point that he used to drink as much as her before he left 10 years before (and so I assume that's why he went to the city leaving his daughter, which created other issues) but clearly he has control of the matter now. He only seems to buy beer in order to talk to his boss at the pub or to practice shooting bottles off a fence at very long distance.

The last scene shows the mom and daughter thanking him for his sacrifice (and also perhaps glad he made it back seeing as his car is all shot up?) I think it's the perfect thing to get them talking and maybe having a relationship again. Which is hopeful.
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A really stirring portrayal of life in the outback
annamchugh-693734 September 2018
Warning: Spoilers
Should be mandatory viewing for everyone who lives in Australia. I'm a fan of Aaron Pedersen anyway, but this was a really restrained portrayal of a character who's alienated from his own community and from his own daughter because he's an indigenous police officer. The problem of drugs in the outback is huge, and this does a great job of showing that it is part of the entrenched racism in most of Australian society. I was also impressed with the number of talented teenage actors - hopefully they'll do more in Australian film and TV. The plot's triple whammy of sexual exploitation, drug and alcohol abuse, and racism is balanced by beautiful cinematography which never lets the landscape overpower the characters. The shoot-out at the end is really tragic, and the lack of clarity about exactly what happens with the dysfunctional little family felt completely consistent with the rest of the movie.
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Aussie noir in the Outback....
joebloggscity15 March 2015
This film came as a surprise. I'd never heard of it before it was being shown late night here, and what I found was an engaging and disturbing film. I was engrossed.

Based in a small town in the Australian outback, we have our lead detective single-minded investigating the disturbing murder of a young woman. Despite all the obstacles being thrown in his way, our lead is lead by a level of morality that seems to be missing from everyone else.

The story is really good, and encompasses police corruption, ethnicity, self-preservation and isolation. It can feel it has some homage to 'No Country to Old Men' but it's still very different.

The cinematography is sumptuous, and the acting is wonderful. Worth watching alone for this.

It's a dark tale which is very worthy of viewing.
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Above average Aussie crime thriller
t-dooley-69-3869166 April 2015
Jay Swann (Aaron Pedersen) returns from the big city to take up the job of detective in a small outback town where he has grown up. His first case is that of a young Aboriginal girl who is found murdered. His boss makes it clear that he will be 'flying solo' as all his men are busy with other seemingly more important things.

He is of mixed race and seems to be both outside his native community and not wholly accepted by the all white police force. He starts to dig for clues and finds that for a small outback town there seems to be an awful lot going on, from drugs to prostitution and he is never quite sure where anyone stands - including his fellow officers. He also has to deal with the remnants of his relationship with an estranged teenage daughter.

This is a really good thriller and it kept me guessing right to the end, it did seem to have a few signposts as to who is Mr Guilty, but it is all cleverly done in a laid back yet calculated way. Pedersen as Swann puts in a rather good performance but there are some very entertaining support roles - especially the coroner who all add to the flavour. There is also a fair bit of barely veiled racism added to the mix. The locations are all perfect - so much so that you might miss out how much care has gone into some of the shots. This though is one of those films to see once because once you know the reveal then the real mystery is gone. Still a thriller from down under that had me gripped till the very end - recommended.
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A quality made Australian film
eddie_baggins20 March 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

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