When Sue (Angela Punch McGregor) finds out her estranged husband Phil (John Jarrat) is about to be released from prison, she’s terrified. She cleans out the bank account, puts through a call to a friend named Chris (Chris Haywood), packs up her teenage son Damien (Charlie Jarratt, John’s real-life son) and heads out of town in a hurry. They wind up at an outback roadhouse at Savage’s Crossing, where the owners Kate (Jessica Napier) and Mory (Craig McLachlan) tell them they’re about to be stranded, as the rain’s going to flood the nearby rivers. Sue and Damien are soon joined by two young women on holiday, and are all set to make the best of it when Phil turns up having tracked Sue and Chris from their home. Sue’s friend Chris (who may or may not be a cop sent to bring Phil in) is not far behind, and the group are forced into closer and closer proximity by the rising floodwaters.
Savages Crossing is the first film from John Jarrat’s Winnah Films production company, and was co-written by Jarrat himself, along with his wife Cody. John Jarrat will be recognisable to most people as the implacably brutal Mick Taylor in Wolf Creek, but unfortunately there’s scant trace of that performance here. Phil is supposed to be the primary antagonist – an off-the-rails drunk with a vicious streak and nothing to lose. That’s scary on paper, but in practice Jarrat’s performance is a mess.
The scenes of violence have a little of Mick Taylor’s matter-of-fact brutality, but could have used more. The rest of the time, Jarrat seems to be unable to decide whether Phil is a dangerous drunk or an incompetent one, and for that matter how drunk he actually is at any given point in time. This is a serious issue, as drinking constantly seems to be his primary character trait. Chris Haywood, who does an excellent job as a bent cop, would probably have been a more appropriate choice for Phil – as he at least manages to be genuinely menacing.
The rest of the characters, meanwhile, appear to have been beamed in directly from a selection of soap operas without ever quite realising that they’ve landed in something that’s supposed to be a thriller. This is particularly true of Mory and Kate, whose “all-Aussie tough guy meets true blue outback sheila” love plot is pure outback-cowboy Mills & Boon by way of McLeod’s Daughters.
There’s a final twist which tries to somehow make sense of Phil’s inept characterisation, and to muddy the moral outlook of the film a bit – but by that stage it’s too little too late.Savages Crossing wants to be a claustrophobic cat-and-mouse thriller that uses the Australian bush and its tempestuous climate to heighten the stakes – instead it feels like an extra-long season finale of a mid-range Aussie soap.
- Director: Kevin James Dobson (Australia, 2013)
- Studio: MVD Visual / Anchor Bay
- Runtime: 85 mins