“Blackwater Trail” is a well-made but barely credible thriller. Ian Barry’s superior direction and a solid cast give the John Sexton production surface excitement, but hardly enough to warrant theatrical exposure. This is useful small-screen fare.
Andrew Russell’s screenplay kicks off in familiar territory. Matt Curran (Judd Nelson), a novelist, returns to the small Queensland town of Michelton after living in the U.S. for several years, to attend the funeral of his best friend, Andy, an ex-cop who apparently has committed suicide. Cathy (Dee Smart), Andy’s sister and Matt’s former lover, who is now married to the local doctor (Peter Phelps), is certain Andy was murdered because he knew the wrong man had been sentenced for killing a number of young women.
Matt decides to stick around and ferret out the truth, despite the opposition of local cop Chris (Mark Lee), whose wife, Sandra (Gabrielle Fitzpatrick), had been in love with Andy. Matt soon discovers that someone is setting up a trail along the lines of a treasure hunt, a series of clues consisting of obscure biblical quotations and body parts of the murdered women.
Just why the killer should leave such a trail is never satisfactorily explained, and the contrived red herrings don’t add to the pic’s credibility. But director Barry, who deserves better material than this, proves more than competent in sustaining tension and in giving the modestly budgeted pic an exciting, imaginative visual package. Scenically spectacular location shooting is a plus.
Nelson, his Yank accent explained by his years in L.A., brings a brooding presence to the role of the returned expatriate, Smart is charming as the dead man’s distraught sister, and Lee (best known as Mel Gibson’s buddy in “Gallipoli”) is spooky as the sinister small-town cop.