When things get out of hand, what lengths would you go to restore order?
A howling dog and a wretched smell lead a passing truckie to discover the body of an Indigenous girl under the highway in the barren outskirts of Massacre Creek near Mystery Road.
At the same time, detective Jay Swan (Aaron Pedersen) returns to his hometown with high ideals after a stint in the big smoke. When he is assigned the murder case, it immediately stirs an undercurrent among the locals in a town with an unresolved past.
Swan’s investigation takes him to the underbelly of the tightknit, tight-lipped community, which is accustomed to holding the reigns and hiding the facts to maintain the status quo.
There’s plenty of red tape and complications of a personal nature as the detective is left to his own devices to bring hope to hopeless terrain. He sets about interviewing witnesses and simultaneously attempts to reconcile with his teenage daughter through his ex-wife Mary Swan (Tasma Walton).
Deals are done on the quiet, people know their place and the amber fluid flows freely in this sleepy town. Swan is warned off asking too many questions; in one powerful scene in the cop car, the “Sarge” (Tony Barry) tells him to “keep everything in its place Jay-boy” and fight only “one war at a time”. His final call to action is a menacing threat from Johnno (Hugo Weaving) which incites him to take the law into his own hands to make a difference, once and for all.
This is a powerful, thought-provoking and somewhat unsettling movie directed with keen insight by Ivan Sen. The bevvy of believable characters are captured by the formidable talents of an exceptional cast including Jack Thompson, David Field and Bruce Spence.
Mystery Road delivers a potent message about inherited behaviour, mediocrity, misguided loyalties and what can happen when people in positions of power act only for their own good.
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