Fans of good old-fashioned crime dramas will find a lot to enjoy in co-writer and director Robert Connolly’s solid example of the genre. The Dry delivers on all expected fronts boasting stellar performances from the ensemble cast, muscular direction, psychological dilemmas, and atmospheric location. However, it all feels a bit familiar. We’ve seen it all before: the obsessive cop with emotional baggage, the small-town folk being interrogated, the lovey-dovey subplot, the tonal dreariness. The filmmaker isn’t aiming to avoid tropes, and what the film does, it does splendidly, though an injection of humor would have certainly been welcome.
Detective Aaron Falk (Eric Bana) returns to his fictional, drought-stricken hometown in regional Australia to attend the funeral of his friend Luke’s family. Luke (Martin Dingle Wall) allegedly butchered his wife, left his baby to die, and then shot himself. Aaron, of course, senses that something is amiss. Spurred by his traumatic past, which threatens to catch up with him, the cop embarks on an investigation alongside Greg (Keir O’Donnell), the local, fragile little sergeant.
As the layers of mystery begin to unravel, so does Aaron, but in a subtle, introverted fashion. Flashbacks to his adolescent years haunt the stoic detective, wherein a young girl was found dead in a river, now a dried-up creek. The fact that he’s continuously taunted by local troublemaker Grant (Matt Nable) doesn’t help matters. Thank God for Gretchen (Genevieve O’Reilly), but even this blossoming romance gets tainted by his demons. With increasing conviction, Aaron senses a “connection between the two deaths.” Let’s just say both mysteries get resolved by the end of The Dry, in a way that’s both predictable and satisfying – quite the feat to pull off.
“Detective Aaron Falk…embarks on an investigation alongside Greg…”
Cinematographer Peter Raeburn beautifully portrays the parched Australian landscape. Everyone and everything is dehydrated, crimson fires looming in the background, dark-brown sludge spurting out of the shower, blood drying on cracked soil. Those folks live in misery, in perpetual waiting for their supplies to run out, their neighborhood morphing into a ghost town before their very eyes.
Eric Bana’s restrained performance is perfectly calibrated to match the film’s tone, subliminal demons lurking underneath the cool exterior. He never ventures into caricature, carrying the more heavy-handed sequences on his broad shoulders. Though Keir O’Donnell convinces as his frail partner Greg, it is Matt Nable who forms a formidable counterpart to Aaron. The actor is all unbridled energy, barking insults in Bana’s steely face.
A thrilling chase and consequent encounter in a dying forest. An act of self-immolation. A brutal shooting. Connolly’s so adept at crafting sequences, the lack of originality in The Dry can (almost) be forgiven. A question does linger, though: what if all that filmmaking craft were applied to a slightly more nuanced screenplay? Perhaps the end result would be a little less, well, dry.
"…beautifully portrays the parched Australian landscape."