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Review: Eric Bana never better as he leads moody Australian crime drama 'The Dry'

Courtesy of IFC


The opening of Robert Connolly’s moody crime drama “The Dry” paints a grim portrait: not only is a once thriving community suffering from a 324 day drought but its been rocked by a horrible tragedy, the murder/suicide of a father/mother and their eight-year old son. A massive hit when it debuted in Australia, IFC is handling its American distribution, “The Dry” is the type of simmering adult drama that would span a ten epsiodes mini-series, where the shocking revelations and obvious clues would leave audiences guessing for weeks.

Eric Bana, headlining his first Australian film in nearly two decades, has never been better playing Aaron, a berated detective who returns to his fictional hometown of Kiewarra, at the request of his parents, to attend the funeral of his childhood friend, Luke (Martin Dingle Wall), the alleged shooter of his wife and son. Aaron has a troubled past and you’ll understand within five minutes why he left Kiewarra, made apparent by a slew of flashbacks to when he was a teeanger and his high school sweetheart, Ellie (BeBe Bettencourt) was found dead in the nearby river. At first, these brief sides overstay their welcome before deepening and contrasting the present day situation rather poetically.

Aaron knows something is off about the triple homicide, and decides taking the case could be what absolves him of past sins (he feels the guilt of Ellie’s death everyday despite claims of having nothing to do with her drowning, but the court of public opinion is what pushed him out of Kiewarra). It’s an interesting dynamic that Connolly cooks-up and the screenplay by Harry Cripps and Connolly - adapted from the novel by Jane Harper - gives Bana some of his best work in years. Emotionally grounded and restrained with a bitter sense of urgency.

Aaron links up with the local sheriff (Keir O’Donnell) to track down a list of suspects, where one by one the pieces start coming into place. Meanwhile, the tight-knit community is on edge considering the nearby forest is a firecracker waiting to happen. One tiny flame and the entire town will go up in smoke. An interesting juxtaposition for Aaron’s own frustrated state of mind, though an old friend Gretchen (Genevive O’ Reilly - outstanding) offers a shoulder to cry on.

But it all comes back to Bana who is a consistent force of nature as he navigates both criminal cases through a series of obvious cop cliches. “The Dry” marks a refreshing change of pace from the onslaught of timid and atmospheric police procedurals of late (“The Little Things”), Connolly lets tensions boil and builds an engrossing foundation before showing audiences where it all began, leaving plenty for them to savor.

Grade: B+

THE DRY opens in select theaters and everywhere you rent movies Friday, May 21st


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