The title of this new Australian movie, Dead Heart, refers to the dead heart
of the centre of Australia, the red centre. There is enough red dust in
this movie to prove it was shot in the outback.
This movie is a return for Bryan Brown. He stars in the lead role as the
local Senior Constable in a small outback settlement, Wala Wala. Brown
also co-produced this feature. Brown turns in a convincing performance
and shows that he is, indeed, an excellent acting craftsman.
Ernie Dingo plays the aboriginal preacher/bureaucrat who acts as the middle
man between the white fella law and the black fella tribal law. Somewhat
stereotypical, Ernie's character isn't really white and isn't very black
either. He's forgotten the tribal ways. And, as he say in the climatic
final scenes, he's too soft to live the "old ways" in the desert.
The story starts with an aboriginal death in custody, an all to common tale
in Australian jails. A popular tribal member hangs himself in the local
lock-up. The tribal elder, Poppy, wants black fella justice for the guilty
and feels the police are as guilty as the local who supplied the grog.
Into this hothouse is mixed a collection of white residents, a do-gooder
teacher and his wife & kids, an archaeologist, etc. The teachers wife,
played by Kate Milliken, has an affair with the local Aboriginal lothario.
The place they choose is a sacred site. Tribal elders are outraged and
the lover dies mysteriously. Brown is certain it's murder. He "knows"
how these people work. "They can kill you without leaving marks".
The movie starts slowly, like the pace in outback Australia. But this supposed
murder picks up the pace. Without revealing the ending, too much, Brown
ends up in the desert, pursuing those he feels are responsible.
The main problem with this movie is that the director has taken a good story
and tried to include all the other wrongs the white fella has brought to
the black fella. There 's a scene of petrol sniffing. There are three
mentions of the "stolen children" from the 50's & 60's. There's
the constant reminder of grog. Even ATSIC, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Islander Commission, comes in for a mention. ATSIC is in the Australian
press at the moment as a billion dollar boondoggle run by indigenous people
for indigenous people. There is simply too much moralizing and this distracts
from the storyline.