Saturday, October 19, 2013

MYSTERY ROAD - LFF 2013 - Day Eleven

For those of you who have seen the critically acclaimed Sundance Channel murder mystery set in New Zealand, Top of the Lake, MYSTERY ROAD is going to seem rather familiar.  A small Antipodean town is riven with drugs, teenage prostitution, racism and a police cover up.  The problem is that while Top of the Lake was taught, tense, genuinely sinister and anchored on a devastatingly affecting central performance, MYSTERY ROAD is overlong, overdrawn, with a paint by numbers plot and a final shoot-out so overblown that the audience was laughing at it. 

The plot, such as it is, sees Aaron Pederson as a smalltown cop where a young Aborigine girl is found murdered.  He begins his investigation in the teeth of opposition from town's white cops, and stumbles on a subculture of drugs and teen prostitution.  Tragically, he finds himself similarly alienated from his own indigenous community, as a man sent to investigate his own. Worse still, his daughter, living with her alcoholic abused mum, is right in the target demographic of the victims.  The movie unravels at a deeply slow pace to reveal police collusion and ends in a somewhat bizarre stand-off. On the way, we get some interesting insights about contemporary race relations in Australia - some stunning cinematography from director Ivan Sen - and the evocation of Australia as a kind of lawless, corrupt Wild West.  But ultimately this movie needed a better script, a better editor, and a less ludicrous ending. 

MYSTERY ROAD has a running time of 122 minutes.

MYSTERY ROAD played Sydney, Toronto and London 2013. It opened earlier this year in Australia and the USA. 

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