By Brent Davidson
16th October 2013

Did you ever go for walks with your grandfather when you were young? He would hold your hand, show you the way and tell you a never-ending, muddled and confusing story about the good old days - and you were happy to follow because it would always end with ice cream. It's time to stumble along again - but this time, without the ice-cream.

Jay Swan (Aaron Pedersen) is an Aboriginal detective who, shortly after returning to his hometown in generic regional Australia, is thrust into an investigation of the murder of a local Aboriginal girl, but her murder is merely the tip of the iceberg. It’s a small town murder mystery, but it's as if we are watching the paperwork being filled out after the incident.


'Mystery Road' has a world of possibility as vast as the stunning landscapes that illuminate the film, but it feels like almost every opportunity for action or character development (or frankly anything) is missed. Jay is a cop in a small town where the Aboriginal population is on the brink of self-destruction which the non-indigenous population almost encourage, but an exploration of race or the inner conflict of Jay’s career and his heritage are non-existent. The director and writer, Ivan Sen, pushes these into the background of this crime drama as Jay faces a barrage of clichés as he works the case.

Pacing is one of of 'Mystery Road’s' biggest downfalls. Long shots and long takes dominate, and you’re left wondering if you needed to see anyone walk up to a door - again. Dialogue with silent seconds between lines distances you even more; if it is a device to build suspense it does the exact opposite. The cast are the cream of the Australian crop, with Hugo Weaving and Ryan Kwanten as the bigger names, but even they struggle to breath life into their underwritten characters.

Pacing is one of of 'Mystery Road’s' biggest downfalls.

'Mystery Road' is a film of unrealised potential, with the only real action coming in the final five minutes in a surprisingly intense Mexican standoff. Sadly, it’s too little too late. With a lack of character development, stakes or conflict, it constantly feels like something is missing. Even with the resolution, it feels like a short film that has been stretched into a feature. So if you’re willing to take a leisurely stroll, go for a walk down 'Mystery Road'.

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