An Aboriginal man accused of murder goes on the run in Warwick Thornton’s glorious Outback Western.
In the wake of Quentin Tarantino’s two acerbic westerns confronting the legacy of slavery in America (Django Unchained, The Hateful Eight) comes a racially charged oater from Down Under. In Sweet Country, an Aboriginal farmhand, Sam Kelly (Hamilton Morris), is loaned by a benevolent preacher-farmer, Fred (Sam Neill), to his volatile neighbor, Harry (Ewen Leslie), to help build a fence. Fred is cooperating out of Christian charity, but Harry, a shellshocked alcoholic, considers the worker and his wife Lizzie (Natassia Gorey-Furber) as livestock to be exploited. When it all ends badly in a hail of gunfire, Sam goes on the run into the Outback, and an aging sergeant, Fletcher (Bryan Brown), organizes a posse to bring him in.
Australia has a special place in its heart for outlaws named Kelly. Ned Kelly, who robbed banks wearing a homemade suit of armor, is a revered folk hero, a point underlined in Sweet Country when a picture show comes to town to screen 1906’s The Story of the Kelly Gang to a cheering mob. That same mob has little sympathy for the indigenous Kelly, an irony that director Warwick Thornton (Samson & Delilah) plays to the hilt. As in the great Westerns, the landscape is a key player, with Brown’s dogged trooper braving heat, scorpions and hostile tribes to get his man, while Neill tags along like the film’s conscience, anxious that Kelly not be condemned by the color of his skin. A chase movie becomes an outdoor courtroom drama, and Thornton wrings from this fable of rough frontier justice a statement from the heart. Australia now has its High Noon.
Cast and crew