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Australia 2013
Directed by
Rowan Woods
103 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars

The Broken Shore

Although the Strine aspect feels overdone in Rowan Woods’ adaptation of Peter Temple's award-winning crime novel  of the same name The Broken Shore is an impressively well-made film that belies its made-for-television credentials.

Detective Joe Cashin (Don Hany) is the cop-in-charge (he refers himself at one point as “sheriff”) at the fictional Victorian coastal town of Port Monro to where he has relocated after  being badly injured during an investigation gone wrong when he was a homicide detective in Melbourne. When a brutal murder occurs outside the town Cashin uncovers a web of deceit and corruption behind the community's quiet façade.

Temple is the author of the ‘Jack Irish’ series of crime novels and though The Broken Shore is a stand-alone novel, at least in Woods’ hands, it too feels like part of an ongoing saga, with the ghost of Phillip Marlowe hanging over Joe Cashin, a taciturn, emotionally- and physically-wounded loner. The main difference between the two is that the sink of corruption in which Cashin finds himself is no longer steamy LA but the regional backwaters of coastal Victoria

Faithfully adapted by Andrew Knight, who was also a co-producer, The Broken Shore takes a location which in Australian film is more usually a location for genial dramedies such as Hotel Sorrento (1995) and skilfully uses it as the setting for a modern and distinctively Antipodean thriller that incorporates spiritual malaise, familial angst, police corruption, racial tension and sex abuse along with a bit of romance, the latter in the form of a testy relationship between Cashin and his spunky neighbour (Claudia Karvan) who also happens to be a lawyer representing one of Cashin’s Aboriginal suspects and an environmental activist for whom he represent s the Establishment.  

At times this all feels a little narratively overloaded but Rowan doesn’t let things bog down while cinematographer Martin McGrath makes sure that the film always looks good with the  wind-swept sea-shore and pounding surf providing a palpably cold back-drop to the proceedings.  Whilst there is nothing televisual about this film at any level its only real weakness is Claudia Karvan’s former corporate lawyer who has returned to the community in which she grew up and has bought the farm next to Cashin's.  If the character is too sketchily drawn, Karvan has probably played this Aussie chick-next-door type too many times to have anything distinctive to bring to it, and unlike the rest of the excellent cast she seems uncomfortably self-conscious throughout. Only in the romantic scenes with Hany does she come into her own although probably many women would say that that was no great achievement.

FYI: The film was shot largely around Victoria's Port Campbell National Park including the town of Port Fairy. 

 

 

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