Mystery Road

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Mystery Road
Theatrical film poster
Directed by Ivan Sen
Produced by David Jowsey
Written by Ivan Sen
Starring Aaron Pedersen
Hugo Weaving
Jack Thompson
Ryan Kwanten
Tasma Walton
Music by Ivan Sen
Cinematography Ivan Sen
Edited by Ivan Sen
Release date(s)
Running time 118 minutes
Country Australia
Language English

Mystery Road is a 2013 Australian crime film written and directed by Ivan Sen. It was screened in the Special Presentation section at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival.[1]


Near the rural town of Winton, Queensland, a truck driver hears a wild dog growling and finds the body of a teenage girl named Julie Mason inside one of the tunnels. Detective Jay Swan (Aaron Pedersen) is called from the city to investigate the murder. He learns that Julie was a drug addict and discovers she had sex with truck drivers for money. One night, Jay follows his colleagues, Johnno (Hugo Weaving) and Robbo (Robert Mammone), and sees them arrive at a run-down building in the middle of nowhere. When they spot him in the distance, he flees and they flag him down. Johnno asks him if he has ever killed anyone accidentally.

A neighbourhood boy tells Jay that he has found Julie's phone and gives it to him. Jay finds several text messages to his teenage daughter, Crystal. He visits his ex-wife Mary (Tasma Walton) and asks if he can speak to Crystal. He asks her if she wants to move to the city with him, but she runs off, crying. Jay searches a farm and meets its owner, Sam Bailey (David Field). Before Jay leaves, he sees a young man (Ryan Kwanten) leaving in a white hunting truck. Jay finds out that teenage girl Nellie Dargon has also gone missing. Upon hearing that Julie frequented the Dusk till Dawn motel to sleep with truckers, Jay sets out to find a man who was there the night of her death.

When he asks the motel owner (Zoe Carides) of any frequent guests who stayed on that night, she tells him about William Smith, who drives a white hunting truck. He tracks the car down and arrives at a house in the middle of nowhere. Upon seeing Smith, Jay realises he is the same man he saw at Sam's farm. Smith insults Jay, refuses to speak and states that he works as a kangaroo hunter. He and his biker roommate intimidate Jay. Jay goes back to the police station and searches for Smith's police record, but fails to find one. He finds that Smith is actually Sam's son, Pete.

The next day, Jay follows Pete onto a local street. Pete gets out of his car and Johnno enters, unaware of Jay. Jay follows Johnno to a resting place where he meets up with a local criminal named Wayne Silverman (Damian Walshe-Howling). Jay arrives at Wayne's house, but Wayne sees him and flees. Jay blocks his way with his car and arrests him. Wayne mentions that he was asked to look after some heroin and he left it in his car. When he left the car, it got stolen. In the middle of the interrogation, Johnno knocks on the door. He tells Jay to leave and reveals that Wayne is his informant.

Later, Jay sees a suspicious orange car and drives up to a hill, where he uses his Winchester rifle to scope the car. A Land Rover appears and the orange car's driver pulls Wayne out and hands him over to the Land Rover's driver. He finds Nellie's dead body and receives a call from the local pathologist that the fabric from a car seat was found under Julie's nails. Jay searches Julie' house and opens the back of the TV, finding several bags of cocaine. Jay arranges a trade in the hill.

Jay arrives at the hill and the two cars show up. A man wearing a hockey mask exits one of the cars and Jay gives him the bag. As Jay stands there, a surprise shot from a distance hits him in his arm. A shootout ensues and Jay is wounded again. Jay sees Pete's truck in the distance and his windshield is shot out by Pete. Pete attempts to shoot Jay, but repeatedly misses. The masked man is shot in the head by Johnno, who is sitting in the distance with a sniper rifle. The orange car comes towards him and Jay shoots the driver. Pete's biker roommate, who was sitting in the back of the car, is shot dead by Jay. Pete and Johnno exchange shots at each other. Eventually, Pete fires his final bullet and we cut back to Jay, who is firing his remaining ammo at the Land Rover. He shoots everyone dead and looks over at Johnno, only to find he has been shot in the neck by Pete. He gets his Winchester rifle out and loads it with 3 bullets. Jay approaches the masked man and pulls off his mask, discovering he is actually Robbo. He sees that Pete has driven off, but sees his car nearby. He shoots two of his tires out and shoots Pete in the head. Jay searches the Land Rover and finds Sam sitting in the back. He sees scratch marks on the backseat and realises they killed Julie.

At sunset, Jay prepares to leave Winton. He drives past Mary's house and sees her and Crystal standing on the footpath. He gets out of the car. They stare at each other and the screen cuts to black.



Mystery Road received positive reviews from critics and audiences, earning an approval rating of 85% on Rotten Tomatoes. Tom Clift of FILMINK called it a "masterfully executed slice of storytelling that rates as one of our finest films of the past few years." Sandra Hall of the Sydney Morning Herald also gave a positive review, commenting that "Mystery Road's links to the classic Hollywood western are as obvious as its hero's cowboy boots and white hat but they do nothing to diminish its Australianness." Craig Mathieson of The Sunday Age called it a "deeply satisfying and slow-burning modern-day western set in outback New South Wales, Ivan Sen's outstanding film Mystery Road bridges the current divide in Australian cinema with a prominent and precise work."

Not all reviews were positive though. Alex Doenau of Trespass commented "There simply isn't enough dynamism to justify Sen's story. Australian movies have to work harder to secure audiences beyond those who go to them out of a sense of duty or worthiness; Mystery Road simply doesn't go that far."


Award Category Subject Result
Best Film David Jowsey Nominated
Best Direction Ivan Sen Nominated
Best Original Screenplay Nominated
Best Actress Tasma Walton Nominated
Best Editing Ivan Sen Nominated
Best Sound Lawrence Horne Nominated
Nick Emond Nominated
Joe Huang Nominated
Phil Judd Nominated
Les Fiddess Nominated
Greg Fitzgerald Nominated


  1. ^ "Mystery Road". TIFF. Retrieved 2013-08-09. 

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