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Film / Mystery Road

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Mystery Road is a 2013 Australian crime film written and directed by Ivan Sen. It stars Aaron Pederson, Hugo Weaving and Ryan Kwanten, and features a vertible who's who of Australian character actors.

In an outback town, Jay Swan, an Indigenous detective, returns home to solve the murder of a teenage Indigenous girl whose body is found under the highway trucking route out of town. Jay is alienated from both the white-dominated police force and the Indigenous community, including his teenage daughter, whom he discovers is connected to the murdered girl.

Mystery Road was followed by a sequel Goldstone in 2016, and a TV mini-series in 2018.


Mystery Road contains examples of:

  • Advertised Extra: Jack Thomson is billed third in the credits and gets his name on the poster despite appearing in only one scene in the movie.
  • Concealment Equals Cover: During the shootout on Mystery Road, several bullets strike Jay's car door without seeming to pass through.
  • The Coroner: Jim may look and act like a quirky Frontier Doctor, but he is sharp as a tack and nothing escapes his forensic examination.
  • Cowboy Cop: Indigenous detective Jay Swan is on the outer with most of white colleagues and is told multiple times not to work too hard on his investigation. He doesn't listen.
  • Dirty Cop: Robbo turns out to be in league with the local drug dealers.
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": Sarge is only ever addressed as 'Sarge' or 'Sergeant': never by his name.
  • I Don't Like the Sound of That Place: The film opens with a girl's corpse being found at the ominously named Massacre Creek.
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  • Jabba Table Manners: While having a 'feed' with Jay, Johnno gobbles down his Chinese food, slurps his tea, and hacks something up into a napkin.
  • Joggers Find Death: The film starts when a truck driver stops to check his tyres and discovers a girl's body in a culvert.
  • Missing White Woman Syndrome: Jay is worried that the murder investigation is not getting the resources it needs because the victim was an Aboriginal girl from the wrong side of the tracks. When a second Aboriginal girl turns up dead, Sarge says that they're handing the investigation over to a homicide team from the big smoke. This infuriates Jay, who knows they won't accomplish anything as they do not know the area or the locals. It is at this point that Jay goes full Cowboy Cop.
  • New Old West: Set in Australia rather the US, but the films deals with a Cowboy Cop trying to fight crime and keep the peace in the vast expanse of the Outback, with very little in the way of resources or backup.
  • Nosy Neighbour: Mary's neighbour is a nosy old man who knows everything that goes on in the street. When Mary's house gets broken into, he refuses to tell Jay anything for fear of reprisals. However, he does nod almost imperceptibly when Jay asks him if the perpetrators were driving a gold Statesman. This is enough for Jay to go on.
  • Old-Fashioned Copper: Sarge just wants a peaceful life in his bailiwick, and is willing to sweep things under the rug if it will prevent a race war breaking out in his town.
  • The Place: Mystery Road is the name of the remote road where the film's climax takes place.
  • Pop the Tires: When Pete attempts to flee the shootout, Jay uses his rifle to shoot out Pete's tyres.
  • Ransacked Room: Jay arrives at Mary's house to find the door kicked in and the house ransacked, with no indication of what the searchers where looking time. Later, he visits Julie's now empty house to find the same situation. However, this time Jay knows what they were after and is able to locate its hiding spot.
  • Slashed Throat: All of the girls are murdered by having their throats slashed with a hunting knife.
  • Sniper Duel: The film ends with a sniper duel between Jay and Pete, with each using their preferred rifle. Jay is at the top of a hill, taking cover behind a fallen tree, while Pete is at the bottom, taking cover behind his crippled truck. They take turns firing at each other, with each adjusting his sights as he sees where his shot hits, and with the first one to correctly zero in destined to be the winner.


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